At a press conference on Saturday at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, Compassion in World Farming launched a campaign to end factory farming and transform the global food system.
“Factory farming is the single biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet, a major driver of wildlife declines and responsible for up to one third of green-house-gas emissions,“ said Ben Williamson, executive director of Compassion in World Farming's US office, at the press conference (12 November). “Without ending it, we simply cannot tackle the growing climate emergency.”
The overall goal of the campaign is to build a better future for animals, people, and the planet by putting an end to factory farming and shifting to sustainable farming that will help restore biodiversity and soils and keep the global increase in average temperatures below 1.5˚C.
The campaign also aims at reversing the current over-reliance on animal protein and support equitable, secure access to nutritious food. A just transition to a sustainable global food system needs to provide fair livelihoods for farmers and protects the rights of indigenous peoples, women, and vulnerable communities. The transition will also deliver higher animal welfare standards, according to the NGO.
Deborah Tripley, Global Director Campaigns and Advocacy, added that restoring the global food system is more urgent that ever and cannot be left to future COPs. She called on the UN and global leaders to agree on a transition pathway for ending factory farming and reducing the consumption of meat and livestock products by 2030.
To raise awareness about these issues and gather support for the campaign, Compassion in World Farming and its partners plan to collect 5 million signatures by 2025. The petition can be signed at a multilingual platform.
Worldwide survey on factory farming
To mark the launch of the campaign, the NGO presented the results of a survey conducted by YouGov in 13 countries around the world (the UK, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Czech Republic, South Africa, Egypt, India, New Zealand, Brazil and the US). The research explores respondents’ opinions on factory farming and their awareness of the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
Respondents were provided with a description of factory farming: ‘For the following question, by "factory farming" we mean the farming of animals in cages, crates, or other confined spaces’. The countries were selected based on where Compassion in World Farming and its partner organizations have country offices and include both global north and south countries.
The survey, conducted in October 2022, shows that the majority of people think that factory farming puts profits ahead of climate and environment (63%) and animal welfare (69%). The results vary by country and do not appear to relate to the level of factory farming in them, Compassion in World Farming told The Brussels Times.
Respondents in France were the most likely to agree that factory farming puts profits before climate and the environment (76%) and animal welfare (81%). Italians were also proportionately more likely to agree with these statements, believing factory farming put profits before animal welfare (77%) and the climate and environment (75%).
Overall, those polled in Egypt, which is hosting this year’s COP27 conference, were the least likely to believe that factory farming puts profits before animal welfare (48%) and were one of the least likely to agree that it puts profits before the climate and environment (50%).
Those in Italy were the most likely to say they were aware that the livestock sector globally produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the emissions of all planes, trains, and cars worldwide put together (63%), followed by India (60%). Respondents in the Netherlands were the least likely to say they were aware of this (42%).
The poll revealed that just 45% of American adults are aware that the livestock sector produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the emissions of all the world’s planes, trains, and cars combined.
“The numbers in the polls are an indication that Europeans know that factory farms put profits before the welfare of farmed animals and climate action,” commented Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU. “Politicians should take action. The EU has a big role to play in changing the rules of the game. Let’s make factory farming illegal. Let’s end it.”
Is there a detailed plan for phasing out factory farming?
“The transformation of our food system won’t take place overnight,” Compassion in World Farming replied. “It will take time and involve a fair transition to help both farmers and consumers adapt to more sustainable livelihoods and lifestyles. There is a place for farming in a healthy and sustainable food system but in ways that are regenerative, working in harmony with nature and with higher animal welfare.”
In a joint NGO statement in September, animal welfare organisations demanded that factory farming should be “shut down” already this winter to save energy and mitigate the climate and public health crises. The NGOs were referring to the EU plan to reduce natural gas consumption by at least 15 % in the coming months.
Asked if the Commission had proposed any measures to save electricity in factory farming, a Commission spokesperson replied that the gas demand reduction target applies at the level of Member States’ overall consumption and is not specific to any industries or sectors. However, it is it is clear that everybody can play a role in reducing the overall energy demand, he added.
Comparison in World Farming explained that agriculture lobbyists keep asking the EU for support, whether that be money or access to energy. “It’s not fair that citizens should be subsidizing an already dying industry – an industry that cannot survive without public help. What is more logical is for the EU to let this outdated production method shut down.”
According to Sophie Aylmer, Head of Farm Animals & Nutrition Policy at FOUR PAWS, industrial farming systems have not the flexibility to reduce or redirect energy use. “Industrial farming systems are designed in a way that keeps animals indoors in artificial conditions that require energy for ventilation, lighting and heating, automatic feeding.”
“The majority of energy consumption in factory farming goes into the production and processing of feed, accounting for around 45% of total livestock GHG emissions globally. Therefore, only reducing the number of animals we farm and sustaining those few animals that remain in a species appropriate way would reduce the reliance of this energy intense feed based on monocultures.”
The Brussels Times