Forget Exxon – big meat and dairy could single-handedly doom the planet

We must stop these meat and dairy giants from destroying the climate and work towards making our small farmers, herders and ranchers resilient.

(Image: Mercy for Animals)

The case against the meat and diary industry has been piling up for years.

We know that the animals suffer horrific treatment, that the workers are subjected to low wages and hazardous conditions, that the nitrogen pollution created by these companies lead to the largest toxic “dead zone” in U.S. history – and now it looks like these companies could undermine our ability to keep global temperatures from rising to an apocalyptic scenario.

Last year, the world’s largest meat producers, JBS, Cargill and Tyson, emitted more greenhouse gas than all of France and nearly as much as the biggest oil companies, like Exxon, BP, and Shell.

Most meat and dairy companies don’t publish their climate emissions (surprise, surprise), but that didn’t stop The Guardian from using the most comprehensive methodology created to date by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to estimate the corporate emissions from livestock.

What they found was astonishing. According to The Guardian:

“We’ve found that the top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of Germany, Europe’s biggest climate polluter by far. If these companies were a country, they would be the world’s seventh largest greenhouse gas emitter.”

These companies have been able to get away with it because they have become increasingly powerful over the past few decades, and they work to influence policies to support their rapid growth and to promote meat and dairy consumption around the world.

According to the FAO, carbon dioxide emissions from raising farmed animals now makes up about 15 percent of global human-induced emissions, with beef and milk production as the leading culprit.

That’s even more than the transportation sector.

These huge meat and dairy industries claim that they are necessary for world food security (a noble cause), and should therefore be given a pass when it comes to climate emissions. But it’s simply not true.

These companies produce a huge amount of subsidized meat and dairy in parts of the world where these products are already consumed in excess. They then ship their surplus around the world to places where local farmers (who actually help ensure food security) are undercut by these companies’ cheap, unhealthy products.

The terrible truth is that raising animals for food emits more greenhouse gas than all the cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined.

This means that until world leaders start taking animal agriculture emissions seriously, their climate action plans aren’t worth much of anything as far as the planet and humanity’s future is concerned.

We must stop these meat and dairy giants from destroying the climate and work towards making our small farmers, herders and ranchers resilient.

For now, there is something you can do to combat climate change by cutting your carbon footprint in half AND sparing countless animals from a lifetime of suffering on factory farms: go vegan!


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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.