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COP28 event highlights crucial role of animal welfare

News Section Icon Published 12/11/2023

Sarah Ison speaking at the event

Yesterday at COP28 in Dubai, our Head of Research, Dr Sarah Ison, highlighted the crucial role of animal welfare in tackling the climate crisis at an event we hosted at the Food4Climate pavilion.

The side event, called Tackling the intractable: the political economy of a livestock transition in line with climate goals explored the political realities of aligning livestock production and consumption with climate goals to 2030 and beyond. The event was held on the conference’s first ever Food, Agriculture and Water Day, which, positively, saw many events themed around food systems.

COP28 brings together government representatives and observers as well as people working for NGOs and other organisations who bring their perspective and expertise to discuss how we can solve the climate crisis. For the second year, we were partners in the Food4Climate pavilion, with organisations including World Animal Protection and Pro Veg, with the aim of highlighting the urgent need for food system transformation to tackle the climate crisis.

No compromises on animal welfare

Alongside a range of experts, including Professor Tim Benton & Dr Helen Harwatt from international affairs think-tank Chatham House, Sarah highlighted the potential for higher animal welfare when transforming farming practices from those that harm our planet to those that respect it.

She talked of the myriad ways that animals suffer when farmed in industrial systems, confined in crowded, barren environments where they are unable to exhibit natural behaviours, and bred to produce unnatural volumes of meat, dairy and eggs.

She recommended a shift to agricultural practices that mitigate climate change such as agroecology or regenerative agriculture. Not only do these nature-positive practices have the potential to enable carbon sequestration and increase biodiversity, they also naturally align with higher animal welfare, improved human health and the opportunity to ensure livelihoods in the long term.

Holistic approach needed

Sarah said: “Future objectives should prioritise the adaption of existing systems, rather than increasing the numbers of animals. Strategies must not compromise animal health and welfare, rural populations, biodiversity, soil fertility and other environmental impact categories, as well as human health.”

Helen Harwatt discussed a project she is leading, tackling the mismatch between the evidence and lack of policy action to aligning farmed animal production and consumption with climate change, public health, and biodiversity goals. She added that shrinking the farmed animal sector is controversial and polarised and the project will culminate in a toolkit of solutions for policy makers to support this transition.

Tim Benton shared some stark realities, and posed the question: “Given the evidence, why is nothing happening?" One such reality is the cost, with poor dietary health including excess calories and high red and processed meat intake contributing $9.6 trillion in healthcare costs, which is three times the total value of agriculture in the world.

Other speakers at the event included Dr Jan Dutkiewicz, Pratt Institute, New York; Anna Salminen, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland; and Namukolo Covic, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Director General’s Representative to Ethiopia.

The world is waking up to the fact that our food system is a significant contributor to the climate crisis. Industrial agriculture, and the livestock sector specifically, is only the biggest cause of animal cruelty, it is a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions and a significant cause of air, soil and water pollution.

But while recognition of this issue is growing, the reality of aligning major sectors in the food system with climate, biodiversity and health goals must be better understood.

Learn more about our work at COP28.


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