Tag Archives: animal agriculture

Can beef be climate-friendly?

Meat eaters may now feel that they can eat beef without worrying about the impact on the climate.  In late 2021, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a verification program that allows meat producers to label their product “low-carbon” if it meets certain criteria. They have subsequently renamed the “low-carbon” designation “climate-friendly.” Just last month, Tyson Foods and Schweid & Sons, in partnership, offered the first burger to earn that designation for sale.

This is a classic case of greenwashing – using language that intentionally misleads the public into believing that something is environmentally friendly.  The USDA’s climate-friendly certification program is run by third party companies contracted by the USDA to evaluate meat producers’ agricultural practices to determine the emissions output.  If that measurement is at least 10% lower than an industry benchmark set by the auditing company for emissions, the producer gets USDA approval to label their products “climate-friendly”.

The problem is three-fold. First of all 10% is not much of a reduction in emissions.  But even worse, the benchmark is set so high that even average beef producers will qualify.  The benchmark is set at 26.3 kilograms of CO2 equivalent emissions per kilogram of carcass weight.  Reducing that by 10% means that beef producers must emit no more than 23.67 kg of CO2 equivalent per kilo of weight. But a 2019 study found that the US average for this metric is only 21.3 kg. In addition, the third-party verification process relies on the honor system, allowing companies to report their own calculations with a total lack of transparency, creating an obvious conflict of interest.

Not only are these problems enough to make the “climate-friendly” designation meaningless, but they don’t take into account all the other ways that raising beef causes harm to the environment such as the water and air pollution from manure, the massive amounts of water needed to raise crops to feed the cattle, the biodiversity lost through monocrops and cutting down the rainforest to raise cattle and grow crops.

This new program is particularly harmful because it leads producers and consumers to think they are doing something to benefit the environment, when in fact beef is by far the least climate-friendly food a person can eat. Don’t be fooled by these new labels.

Global Warming – what aren’t they telling us?

Brace yourself. The earth’s temperature was off the charts last month. Last month was the planet’s hottest June on record by a huge margin.  More recently, the Fourth of July was the hottest day on earth in as many as 125,000 years—breaking a record set the day before.  

While natural variations may be able to explain part of it, few climatologist would deny that human activity is the driving force towards global warming.  But which human activity is the biggest driver of global warming? The answer may surprise you and even many environmentalists are in denial about it. It’s raising meat.  

According to a UN report, raising meat causes more global warming than all the cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats and ships in the world put together. A report by scientists at the World Bank and published in Foreign Affairs magazine, stated that raising meat causes more global warming than all other causes put together.   Why don’t we know about this? Because major news organizations won’t tell us.

A review of 1,000 articles found that the vast majority –  93 percent – fail to even mention animal agriculture at all. In most articles, the writers downplayed the effectiveness of plant-based diets on tackling the climate crisis, the study found. The mention of dietary changes away from meat and dairy and toward plant-based nutrition was rarely mentioned at all. Of course, there are bright spots. Former Vice President Al Gore faced reality and became a vegan himself.  

Since we raise over 60 billion farm animals and catch over 2 trillion fish every year, of course there are going to be consequences. Did we think we could all do that without impacting the environment? Fortunately we are not helpless and we have a choice. Following a plant-based diet is a powerful action each of us can take to fight global warming and sustain the environment.   Learn more:

Diets that fight global warming

Eliminate animal agriculture, stop global warming

Polluting our water

Deforestation and methane reductions

Memorial service for animals

We raise 60 billion farm animals each year, and catch two trillion fish for food, even though they are unhealthy to eat. It seems so unfair that they are killed for our consumption, and they don’t even get a funeral! The least we can do is give them a memorial service. That’s exactly what happened in London on July 2. The We Stand For The Animals memorial service is an annual event that shines a spotlight on the animals society turns away from.

The industries that exploit animals are often hidden from public view. They are crammed into huge barns or stockyards away from public view, and raised without much care for their welfare, and then they are transported to slaughterhouses. It’s often been said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls we would all be vegetarians. The memorial service is one method by which activists communicate this suffering to the public. As well as honoring and mourning the dead, the reality of industries of exploitation was also read out on a speaker by We Stand For The Animals founder Hannah Blake.

According to Blake, ““The memorial is an opportunity to pay our respects to non-humans worldwide and to give some of these individuals a ceremony that celebrates their lives.”   By communicating this message in such a public setting, it’s hoped that the participants will plant seeds in the minds of the public, most of whom would never have given a second thought to the cruelty of human treatment of animals raised or caught for us to eat.  

Funerals and memorial services are a new way for activists to get their message across. For instance, hundreds of people have held a high-altitude “funeral” for a Swiss glacier that has been lost to global warming. Climate activists dressed in black clothes climbed to 2,600 metres above sea level to pay their respects to the last remnants of the Pizol glacier in the Glarus Alps, east Switzerland.

When antibiotics stop working

This one actually scares me.  What if you had an infection and the antibiotic the doctor gave you to fight the bacteria didn’t work? This is known as antibiotic resistance and worldwide it’s resulting in more deaths than HIV and malaria combined. Closer to home, three million antibiotic resistant infections occur every year. What’s causing this growing problem? It’s farm animals, although it’s really not their fault, it’s the way they are raised.

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Cow fakes sleep to avoid being milked

A cow in a 200-strong dairy herd on a farm in England didn’t feel like getting up to be milked one morning.  A farmhand tried to coax her up, knowing that she was faking being asleep.  It’s not surprising that the cow didn’t want to get up, since being a dairy cow is a miserable experience.  This particular cow had the name of Doris and was treated kindly by the farmhand, but most others don’t have it so lucky.

It’s unlikely that a typical farmed cow would be given a name – they are usually treated as milk factories. They are forcibly made pregnant via artificial insemination and then have their babies removed from them so that humans can consume their milk. They are selectively bred to produce significantly more milk than they naturally would, and as a result, they often develop a painful udder condition called mastitis.  A third of dairy cows suffer lameness as a result of being forced to stand on hard surfaces for long periods of time.  When a cow’s milk dries up, and her body finally wears out, she is sent to the slaughterhouse for meat.

Many people choose to give up meat, recognizing the harm that comes from killing the animals for our consumption.  But they don’t always stop to think about the suffering endured by dairy cows and egg laying hens in producing dairy and eggs for human consumption.  A vegan diet is the best way to avoid causing animal suffering.

Big meat emits more methane than big oil

Big meat emits more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than big oil.  If the 15 big meat companies were treated as a country, a recent report noted, it would be the 10th-largest greenhouse gas-emitting jurisdiction in the world. Their combined emissions outpace those of oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, researchers found.

The analysis from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Changing Markets Foundation found that emissions by the companies – five meat and 10 dairy corporations – equate to more than 80% of the European Union’s entire methane footprint and account for 11.1% of the world’s livestock-related methane emissions.

Methane, expelled by cows and their manure, is far more potent than carbon dioxide, trapping heat 80 times more effectively and emissions are accelerating rapidly, according to the UN. According to the UN, cutting methane is the “strongest lever” we have to slow global heating. A University of Oxford study published in 2018 found that a 90 percent reduction in beef consumption was needed to avoid climate breakdown. In April 2022, a UN report also stated that the world must eat less meat. 

Despite this, many world leaders, along with the general public, have been reluctant to accept that our diets are unsustainable. This year’s annual UN climate conference – COP27 – once again drew controversy for serving beef. The decision was blasted by The Vegan Society, which called it “disappointing.” 

The US has resisted regulating farm methane emissions, choosing instead to offer voluntary incentives to farmers and companies for reducing greenhouse gasses. But change is unlikely unless the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to regulate those emissions, said Cathy Day, climate policy coordinator with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The 15 companies studied are based in 10 countries, five of which have increased livestock methane emissions in the past decade, the report said. China’s emissions have increased 17%, far more than other countries.

The effect of animal agriculture goes far beyond methane when it comes to global warming. It’s one of the biggest drivers of deforestation, due to the pressure to clear forests to raise crops for animal feed or provide grazing land. In addition, animal agriculture is one of the biggest users of fossil fuels, used to plant, fertilize and harvest the animal feed, transport the animals to slaughter, to meat processing plants before being send to grocery stores.

The only solution to reducing the greenhouse gases and devastation caused by animal agriculture is for everyone to stop eating animal products.

Animal activists expose pig farm cruelty

Secret photos and videos of animals being abused on farms has been a standard tactic used by animal rights and welfare groups. The latest shock comes from the Excelsior hog farm near Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.  Reader discretion is advised.

Camera footage captured workers shocking pigs in the face with electric prods, repeatedly hitting and kicking the animals, and cutting off the tails and testicles of screaming piglets with no pain relief. It also showed mother pigs languishing in gestation crates next to dead and dying piglets, as well as older pigs with hernias, tumors, and various lacerations.

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Crab harvest failing, try vegan instead

Earlier this month, Alaska announced that it had canceled the entire snow crab harvest for the year. The sudden shutdown of the snow crab season has left the state shocked.

The population of the species, which lives in the cold waters of the Bering Sea, has fallen below the regulatory threshold for the first time, so they cancelled the harvest in the hope of reviving the species. The crab count was 8 million in 2018 and fell to only 1 million in 2021. The sharp drop is due in part to aggressive commercial fishing, but climate change is a more likely culprit. These creatures thrive in water temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius.  The worry is that the waters will not be cold enough to sustain these crustaceans.

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Let’s stop the flu

It’s flu season and many are choosing to get the flu vaccine. This choice is generally a good idea but should be made only after consulting your doctor. The vaccine is about 40% effective in preventing you from getting influenza. While getting the vaccine might keep you from getting the flu or lessen the severity it doesn’t stop the disease from occurring in the first place. Wouldn’t it be better to keep the disease from ever happening in the first place than relying on a partially effective vaccine to protect us? We think so and have written an article published in Juniper Online Journal of Public Health. We can actually stop the flu from developing thus preventing many people from getting sick or dying.

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Cows are the new coal

Cows are the new coal! Companies supplying meat and dairy to McDonald’s, KFC, Tesco, and Nestlé, among others, are falling short of their pledges relating to methane emissions and deforestation, a new report found. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Jeremy Coller is chair of the FAIRR investor network, made up of members with $40 trillion in assets. In a statement, he said: “The post-COP26 era leaves large parts of the meat and dairy supply chain looking outdated and unattractive. Failures from methane to manure management underline the growing sense in the market that cows are the new coal.

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