Governments must focus on transforming food system rather than tinkering with it
Food awareness organisation, ProVeg International, welcomes the newly formed Dairy Methane Action Alliance’s pledge to disclose methane emissions. Nevertheless, while increased transparency and industry-led initiatives are important, the implementation of policies that help societies shift to more plant-based diets remains paramount.
Methane is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide and accounts for approximately 30% of global warming. The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that a single cow’s belching and manure can produce up to 264 pounds (120 kilograms) of methane gas annually. There are approximately 270 million cattle raised for milk production worldwide, which generates 46 billion pounds (almost 21 billion kilograms) of methane each year.
Lana Weidgenant, ProVeg campaigns and policy officer, said, “The commitments put forth by major global dairy companies hold the potential to foster accountability and transparency within the industry. Their pledge to publish methane action plans by the end of 2024 is a laudable initiative that can offer a meaningful contribution to our understanding of ways to reduce the environmental impact of animal agriculture.”
Weidgenant went on to say, “While acknowledging this is a positive development, it’s important to emphasise that livestock accounts for 32% of human-caused methane emissions globally. Although the strides being made by dairy companies are encouraging, it underscores the imperative to explore and embrace plant-based alternatives in our diets. By incorporating more plant-based options, we can actively reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere, thereby promoting a more sustainable and environmentally responsible lifestyle.”
Notes to editors
For media inquiries, contact Jillian LaBruzzo at [email protected]
Some background data on food transformation
- Globally, food systems are responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions and animal agriculture is responsible for one fifth of global emissions.
- Plant-based foods emit half as much greenhouse gas as animal-based foods so they present an effective way for individuals to contribute to tackling climate change.
- Animal agriculture uses 83% of global agricultural land – this is an area the size of North and South America combined. And despite the vast resources needed for production, animal protein only provides 18% of calories and 37% of protein worldwide. Therefore, a vast area of land is needed to supply a very small number of calories, making animal agriculture highly inefficient and harmful to the planet.
- Animal agriculture uses around 70% of the world’s antibiotics in order to limit the spread of disease between livestock. The excessive use of antibiotics contributes heavily to antibiotic resistance and poses a threat to human lives. In 2017, WHO called for farmers and the food industry to stop using antibiotics routinely to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.This year WHO is also collaborating with ProVeg International for an event at COP28 where one of their key takeaway messages is that intensive animal farming is associated with increased risk of antimicrobial resistance. Through shifting towards plant-based diets, the sheer quantity of antibiotics used would be reduced, along with the risk of antibiotic resistance.
- A reduction in livestock would mean fewer crops being fed to animals and instead used for human consumption, easing food security concerns. Therefore, limiting animal agriculture ultimately means more than enough land is freed to produce enough crops for humans.
- Over 40% of the world’s population is currently grappling with water scarcity. Agriculture is the biggest consumer of freshwater worldwide, using 70% of freshwater for the irrigation of fields and for rearing farmed animals on land and in aquaculture farms. The cultivation of feed crops accounts for another 20% of the total global freshwater consumption.
- Plant-based diets also serve to promote social justice. For example, animal agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation. Around 80% of deforestation in the Amazon is due to cattle farming alone. And of course, many indigenous communities rely on the forests to sustain their livelihoods.
- Without transforming current food-consumption behaviours, the Paris Agreement will not be achieved. This means that global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees, even if current fossil fuel emissions are completely halted.
About ProVeg International
Our vision is a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals, and our planet. ProVeg International is a food awareness organisation with the mission to replace 50% of animal products globally with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040.