Pollution From Meat and Dairy to Surpass Oil Industry

Cows on a dairy farm in Spain. A new report has found that the meat and dairy industries could be bigger polluters than the oil industry by 2050.
Picture Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality

A damning new report has found that pollution from the meat and dairy industries could surpass that of oil companies – and that animal agriculture businesses are too secretive over their environmental responsibilities.

Conducted by non-profit organisations the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and GRAIN, the report analyses the largest 35 meat and dairy firms globally. It claims that meat and dairy production in the countries where these companies dominate must be significantly reduced – with no other choice if we are to tackle climate change, highlighting the importance of a vegan diet.

Claims of secrecy

While it’s no secret that meat and dairy are huge contributors to climate change, the report states that if these industries don’t act now, the livestock sector could contribute 80 per cent of allowable greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The five largest animal agriculture firms already emit more pollution than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP.

The report also found that few meat and dairy companies have created targets to tackle levels of pollution, with many businesses cagey about emissions data. Just six firms had set targets encompassing their entire supply chain, which accounts for up to 90 per cent of emissions.

Devlin Kuyek, a researcher at GRAIN, was quoted in The Independent: “These corporations are pushing for trade agreements that will increase exports and emissions, and they are undermining real climate solutions like agroecology that benefit farmers, workers and consumers.”

The largest polluting countries – accounting for 60 per cent of worldwide meat and dairy emissions – are China, the US, the EU, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Brazil and New Zealand, also the largest consumers of meat and dairy per capita.

Speaking in The Independent, Shefali Sharmer, director of IATP said: “It’s time we realised over-consumption is directly linked to the subsidies we provide the industry to continue deforesting, depleting our natural resources and creating a major public health hazard through antibiotic overuse. This report shows what a key role they play in creating climate change as well.”

While the meat and dairy industries must act to become more sustainable, a vegan diet minimises our impact on the environment. A paper published by the Science journal in June 2018 claims that veganism is the ‘single biggest way’ to decrease our environmental impact, and could reduce international farmland use by three quarters.

To find out more about switching to a vegan diet, take the Veganuary pledge.

Sign up to Veganuary's pledge

Thinking of trying vegan?

Veganuary inspires and supports people all over the world to try vegan for January and beyond. Millions of people have already taken part.
Will you join them?