THE BLOG

After COP21 It's Time to Talk About Animal Agriculture and Climate Change

17/12/2015 16:30 GMT | Updated 16/12/2016 10:12 GMT

I was in Paris over the weekend for the end of the #COP21 UN climate summit. As a campaigner I was under no illusion that the Paris Agreement would be little more than a vague commitment to seriously tackle climate change.

Shockingly the Paris Agreement made little mention of one of the worlds biggest producers of greenhouse gases 'animal agriculture'.

Greenhouse impacts of animal agriculture

Politicians and NGO's have long known about the effects on animal agriculture on the climate. A 2010 UN report quoted that greenhouse gases produced by livestock equated to 18% of global greenhouse gases. That figure is higher than the global greenhouse gases from transport.

Recently the film Cowspiracy has been making waves online and credits Leonardo DiCaprio as a producer has put the figure of greenhouse gases from animal livestock at around 51%.

So what does this mean for global attempts to tackle climate change?

In short it is bad news. The agreement at COP doesn't address the need to create a global shift towards a plant-based diet. Chatham House recently released a report calling for a global move towards a plant-based diet to have a realistic chance of keeping the global temperature increase below 2.0C.

Is the climate movement awakening to animal agriculture as a leading cause of climate change?

NGO's and climate change campaigners to-date have approached the topic of animal agriculture with great trepidation. And to be honest I can see why.

Winning the battle for public opinion consensus to tackle climate has been hard, despite the clear evidence of droughts, famine, and extreme weather driven by climate change. The fossil fuel industry supported by a complicit media especially in the UK and America has muddied the water and spread misinformation and bad science with abandon.

The fossil fuel industry had to be taken head on- they still need to be confronted by people around the world and held to account. As this fantastic article by Adam Ramsey exposes that they are still yet to confront the reality that most of the fossil fuels available will have to stay in the ground as we shift towards renewable energy sources.

What the film Cowspiracy revealed is that NGO's don't want to talk about the issue of animal agriculture causing climate change. In the UK despite huge surges in the popularity of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles 87% of people still eat an omnivorous diet.

To launch a campaign saying that people should stop eating meat is too brave for the NGO's and politicians.

Time for heroes

The author and activist Naomi Klein is one of my all time heroes. I wasn't at the talk she gave to 3000 activists at COP21 on Thursday but I heard she was confronted with questions about animal agriculture. Her reasoning for not advocating a vegan lifestyle is that indigenous communities have a big part to play in opposing the fossil fuel industry. Their legal framework for doing so rests on their right to hunt, fish and work the lands as agreed with their colonial forefathers.

I am sorry but this is just wrong. We can't just say because it isn't in the historical culture of these indigenous groups to eat a plant-based diet none of us can campaign for a global shift away from meat consumption.

I understand not everyone will be able to go vegan yet. But in the west we are privileged and this becoming an increasingly easy choice to make.

And this is where NGO's, governments and businesses need to step-up. I believe we need global awareness campaigns about the benefit of a plant-based diet funded by governments.

Like the fossil fuel a powerful lobby supports the animal agriculture industry. Animal agriculture accounts for a huge percentage of nation GDP's, cultural shifts don't happen overnight but increasingly young people especially are waking up to the connection between dangerous climate change and animal agriculture.

On YouTube young creatives like Jackson Harries, Ben Brown,Louis Cole have chosen to start following a vegan lifestyle. My friend The Friendly Activist has been causing waves with his educational vegan activism on YouTube. These creators and cultural influencers represent how many people are feeling.

A shift towards a global plant-based diet may be uncomfortable for those heading NGO's who eat an omnivorous diet. And it may be hard for those campaigners who get why keeping fossil fuels in the ground is essentially but enjoy a Sunday roast beef. But just because something is uncomfortable, it doesn't mean it shouldn't be talked about.

The time is now for the leaders of the environmental movement to step-up and talk about need for a radical shift toward a plant-based diet in-order to help tackle climate change

The shift towards a vegan diet to tackle climate change is a movement of unstoppable momentum powered by science and compassion.

New organisations and activists advocating a shift towards a vegan diet are emerging and speaking this truth the only question is will the current NGO's and campaigners join them?