Animal Agriculture Hurts More than Just Farmed Animals
Have you heard of the Bramble Cay melomy’s? I hadn’t until the species made headline news in June 2016. The melomy’s, a little mouse with a long tail, earned the sad honor of being the first animal to completely die out as a result of climate change. The Bramble Cay melomy’s had one home—a small island off the Australian coast. As sea level rise took over their habitat, the species was pushed as far as it could go, until space ran out, and scientists declared the melomy’s extinct.
The fate of these rodents is just one example of the effect climate change has on animals.
We’ve all seen the images of polar bears struggling to find food as their habitats melt, and of dead corals unable to thrive in warming oceans. Those are just the most visible changes.
The facts are in and climate change is a crisis for animals.
However, one of its main causes remains largely undiscussed—animal agriculture. Anyone who cares about animals or the environment needs to accept and address our current food system’s role in climate change is a growing crisis that is a major contributor to our planet’s sixth mass-extinction event.
The impact of animal agriculture demands more attention and more action. It not only directly kills more than ten billion animals every year for food in America alone, it indirectly takes the lives of tens of thousands more and imperils the future of all animals including humans.
Animal Agriculture Displaces Wildlife
Today, 45 percent of the earth’s land surface is used for animal agriculture either for pastures or for growing feed for animals who will eventually be slaughtered. All of that land previously served as a habitat for a variety of plants and animals, all of which are displaced when land is designated for animal agricultural supply. The Brazilian rainforest is depleted by one to two acres every second, mostly to support increased cattle ranching. As the rainforest falls, so do the thousands of species it is home to.
Sustaining Animal Agriculture through Direct Killing
In the United States, coyotes, mountain lions, bears, and other animals are victims of animal agriculture. Because private ranchers consider them threats to the animals they’re raising for slaughter, Wildlife Services, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, uses tax dollars to kill those native species. The agency kills more than one million animals every year, many of them “non-target” animals like dogs, who happen to encounter the indiscriminate lethal traps. For years, animal advocates like the Animal Legal Defense Fund have fought to rein in Wildlife Services’ killing.
Factory Farms’ Massive Pollution Problem According to a United Nations report, animal agriculture is a primary driver of the most serious environmental problems on the planet, being responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all methods of transportation combined.
The pollution generated by animal agriculture is also a major cause for concern.
The fertilizers and herbicides used in feed crops kill bees as they’re released into the air, and aquatic life suffers from an influx of farm animal waste that results in so-called “dead zones,” occurring at the mouths of major rivers worldwide. As that waste and the chemical fertilizers sprayed on animal feed crops collects in rivers and flows into the ocean, toxic algae that feed on it proliferates and depletes the water of all oxygen. All life in the area is then suffocated and killed, leading to large dead zones in oceans at the mouths of rivers. In the summer of 2017, experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the annually occurring Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the largest it’s ever been.
Reasons for Hope
Despite all this, there is still reason for optimism. We have the power to look at our food system and its contributions to climate change and choose a more sustainable path. Simple science tells us that raising animals for food (including growing the plant foods to feed them) is more resource intensive than plant-based foods. Animal agriculture requires more land use and water consumption, and it produces more greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution. As individuals, we have the power to make better choices in what we spend our money on, what we eat, what we drive, and beyond.
Join the Animal Legal Defense Fund as we combat the dangers of factory farming.
Learn more at aldf.org