Cutting livestock by a third

There’s no fixing a climate change catastrophe without slashing the number of animals raised for food.  A new Meat Atlas 2021 report revealed that globally, the world’s five largest meat and dairy companies together account for more emissions than oil giants such as BP or Exxon.  Many people now recognize this fact, but governments appear loath to acknowledge it publicly in their policies due to pressure from large animal agriculture producers and meat-eaters.  However, one country has taken the first step in this process, and are considering cutting the number of livestock by nearly a third. 

The Netherlands is currently the European Union’s largest meat exporter, and is one of the leading producers in the region. They are motivated primarily by their country’s Supreme Court, which ruled in a 2019 landmark case that the government was breaking EU law by failing to combat excessive nitrogen emissions in the environment. Aside from its huge carbon footprint, livestock farming leaves behind devastating impacts on the land, water and soil. Farmed animals produce a lot of urine. Cattle urine is a lesser-known climate offender. It produces nitrous oxide (N2O), but pound for pound has warming power far greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Runoff of this nitrogen compound in farms can damage natural habitats within the farm, but also surrounding environments through lakes and streams.  The new plan set out by the Dutch government would force most farmers to reduce the size of their cattle by nearly one-third. Under the proposal, farmers could either sell livestock production rights, or be forced to sell their land. 

Let’s hope that other governments find the courage to do the same, or even better, that reductions in the demand for animal products rapidly lead farmers to cut the number of animals they raise themselves.  The environmental problems caused by raising animals for meat, eggs and dairy, are immense, leading not only to high emissions of climate warming gases, and pollution of our waterways and air, but also deforestation, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and ocean dead zones.

By switching to a plant-based diet, and reducing your consumption of animal products, you can help reduce the demand for animal products, and help speed this process along before it’s too late!