Bold agreements to tackle climate change have been negotiated by world leaders at the recent Paris summit on Climate Change, COP21. But the bottom line is, the very key to stopping climate change is being ignored.
With United Nations countries agreeing to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °, the developed world must recognise that these ambitious and welcome targets will not be met unless we face up to our food - and change the way we eat.
It should be no secret that the simple answer to solving many of the crucial issues faced by humanity today lies in changing our diets. By eating less meat and dairy, and farming less intensively, we can hit several proverbial birds with one stone, and take on climate change, farm animal cruelty, and human health all at once.
My organisation, Compassion in World Farming, has long advanced the benefits of eating less meat for animals, people and the planet. We are calling for a significant reduction in the consumption of animal products in developed countries, and for humane, higher-welfare, animal farming.
One of the main reasons that livestock farming makes such a massive contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) is the overconsumption of cheap meat and dairy products in developed countries that is fuelled by factory farming.
Leading figures in the food and farming scene agree that there is no use agreeing on concrete goals to cut GHG emissions without facing up to the impact of the food we eat. Ninety five Compassion visionaries and friends, including TV chef and food waste campaigner Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall and conservation expert Dr Jane Goodall, have all added their voices to our call for food and farming not to be ignored as one of the main drivers for climate change. Now it is time for policy-makers and leaders across the world, to acknowledge the key to tackling climate change, and open the door to a better food system - better for the planet, for animals, and for our health. Our future depends on it.
Read our visionaries' letter in full:
In the aftermath of the Paris climate conference, COP 21, we could see our last chance to achieve the urgent actions needed to keep the global temperature rise below 2°C.
To our dismay, one of the major factors adversely affecting temperature increase was omitted from the agenda: livestock and diets. This was an extraordinary omission, as the FAO estimates that the livestock sector alone is responsible for 14.5% of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by human activity. The FAO also foresees a massive increase in meat consumption by 2050.
Logically, COP 21 should have sought ways to reduce current and predicted levels of meat consumption and thereby the number of global livestock reared and slaughtered per year - currently standing at around 70 billion animals per annum and possibly reaching 120 billion by 2050. (Exceptions can always be made for regions like South East Asia, where consumption levels are low.)
A recent paper in Nature Climate Change shows that it is unlikely that global temperature rises can be kept below 2°C without a shift in global meat and dairy consumption. The authors show that, on a business-as- usual basis, agriculture's GHG emissions will increase by 42-77% by 2050.
A 2014 paper showed that the more meat in the diet, the higher the GHG emission per person.
Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, produced an interim report on climate change in August. She stresses that "The world's current consumption pattern of meat and dairy products is a major driver of climate change and climate change can only be effectively addressed if demand for these products is reduced."
We urge world leaders to recognize livestock and food as a sector that must reduce emissions and call on countries with high meat consumption levels to set ambitious targets for reduction.
Dr Manazir Ahsan, Ms Norma Alvares, Dr Jonathan Balcombe, Dr Mohamed Behnassi, Professor Marc Bekoff, Professor Paulo Borges, Dr Eleanor Boyle, Mr David Bronner, Professor Joy Carter, Reverend John Chryssavgis, Professor David Clough, Dr Jonathan Crane, Mr Chris Darwin, Ms Ros Draper, Mr Peter Egan, Ms Rose Elliot, Professor Jan-Willem Erisman, Ms Audrey Eyton, Mr Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Professor Julia Formosinho, Snr Grazia Francescato, Professor Steve Garlick, Dr Karl Gerth, Professor Marita Giménez-Candela, Mr Ben Goldsmith, Dr Jane Goodall, Mr Michael Gottlieb, Professor Dave Goulson, Professor William Greenway, Professor Anil Gupta, Ms Noelle Harrison, Professor Arjen Hoekstra, Dr Lakshmi Iyer, Mr Stanley Johnson, Dr Deborah Jones, Dr Lisa Kemmerer, Professor Martin Kemp, Mr Bruce Kent, Mr Fazlun Khalid, Professor Julian Kinderlerer, Dr Richard Kirkden, Professor Andrew Knight, Professor Paul Krause, Professor Nanditha Krishna, Mr S Chinny Krishna, Ms Timmie Kumar, Professor Tim Lang, Professor Robert Lawrence, Lord Anthony Lester, Lady Catherine Lester, Ms Marina Lewycka, Professor Duo Li, Reverend Andrew Linzey, Miss Joanna Lumley, Sir David Madden, Miss Miriam Margolyes, Mr Jeffrey Masson, Dr Alan McElligott, Mr Nitin Mehta, Professor Ben Mepham, Mr Chris Mullin, Mr Abdal Hakim Murad, Mr Martin Palmer, Mr Ryan Pandya, Professor Christine Parker, Mr Amit Pasricha, Professor Clive Phillips, Professor Robert Picciotto, Mr Michael Pollan, Professor Barry Popkin, Mr Jonathon Porritt, Professor Sir Mark Post, Dr John Powles, Mr Jay Ramsay, Dr Kate Rawles, Professor Michael Reiss, Professor Kurt Remele, Mr Gordon Roddick, Dr Rafal Serafin, Professor Peter Singer, Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, Ms Carol Spear, Professor Carola Strassner, Professor Elizabeth Stuart, Dr David Suzuki, Professor M S Swaminathan, Mr Geoff Tansey, Professor Mario Tozzi, Dr Mary Evelyn Tucker, Professor John Webster, Ms Sue Jameson, Mr James Bolam