FOUR PAWS staff at climate rally holding sign that reads, "No climate protection without animal protection"

Progress at COP28: The Connection Between Animal Welfare and Climate

For the first time, sustainable agriculture was included in the world climate talks


The global climate discussions, known as COP28, took place at the end of 2023, with world leaders gathering in Dubai. Although many feel that the meetings fell short of an agreement that would mitigate the worst effects of climate change (the International Energy Agency concluded that current pledges would not allow the world to meet the stated goal of remaining within a 1.5˚ C temperature rise1), there is still some reason to celebrate. For the first time, discussions included talk of global food systems, with world leaders signing on to a declaration on resilient food systems, sustainable agriculture, and climate action.  This, in addition to the agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, gives reason for hope.

Animal welfare and the climate crisis

Globally, the livestock industry generates 16.5% of our total global greenhouse gas emissions. It is the second-highest source of emissions and amounts to more than the entire transport sector - all of the world’s cars, trucks, ships and airplanes combined2.

On top of that, animal agriculture is the leading contributor to biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration, deforestation, and water pollution3.

Currently, animals are bred to fit the needs of a broken system that prioritizes profit over climate concerns and subjects sentient beings to chronic stress, fear and pain. A model based on positive animal welfare interventions is urgently needed. Most importantly, fewer farm animals overall would mean fewer emissions and more space for the remaining animals to perform their natural behaviors. Permanent access to extensive pastures and limiting herd sizes are some of the measures that can directly improve the lives of 80 billion farm animals every year and mitigate and adapt to climate change.

To save the climate, we have to reduce our consumption of meat and finally end factory farming.

"Unfortunately, most countries are expanding their intensive livestock farming operations with an increasing belief in technical solutions rather than real sustainable transformation of how we farm. We call on countries to use this stocktaking moment to ensure their NDCs* from 2024 onwards reduce the number of animals we farm and give greater importance to animal welfare in relation to our environment Let us not force 80 billion sentient beings every year to fit a broken system and drastically reduce meat production and consumption.”

Josef Pfabigan, CEO of FOUR PAWS

*NDCs are Nationally Determined Contributions, a climate action plan to cut emissions, which each country must establish and update every 5 years. 

close up of dairy cow in a grassy field

What we can do in the United States

Practice the 3 R’s Principle:

To take action, FOUR PAWS recommends the 3 R’s principle. That is to: Reduce the number of animal products that are consumed as much as possible, Refine the selection of animal products that are consumed to the most sustainable and cruelty-free option on offer and to Replace as many animal products as possible with tasty, cruelty-free and climate-friendly alternatives.

Eat a climate-friendly diet:

A climate-friendly diet is one which has the least impact on our animals and the environment. On average, the production of meat and other animal-based products have a much greater carbon footprint than plant-based alternatives. Therefore, a climate-friendly diet includes choosing more plant-based, and whenever possible, regional and seasonal oriented diet, which automatically contributes the reduction of meat and other animal-based products being consumed. 

More and more people around the world are interested in animal welfare labels and the demand for plant-based meat-alternatives is skyrocketing. This is a global movement that can change our world for the better  with your help!

Advocate for laws that center sustainability and animal welfare: 

There are several bills currently before our US Congress relating to farm animals which could improve the lives of farm animals while increasing sustainable farming practices, and there are several bills before Congress that could greatly harm animals and contribute to further climate change.

Bills We Support:

Farm System Reform Act 

The Farm System Reform Act (S.271/H.R. 797would put a moratorium on new factory farms, hold corporations responsible for harm caused by factory farms, and help level the playing field for smaller, family-owned farms and ranchers.

Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act 

The Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act (S.272/H.R. 805) will hold industrial agriculture operators accountable by requiring them to register high-risk large animal feeding operations, submit disaster preparedness plans, and pay to cover the costs of preparing for and responding to disaster events. It would also create new requirements and federal funding for more humane slaughter methods. 

Bills We Oppose

The Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act ) and the Protecting Interstate Commerce for Livestock Producers Act

The Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act (S.2019/H.R.4417) and the Protecting Interstate Commerce for Livestock Producers Act (S.3382) are harmful to animals and to human health.

While the sponsors of these bills claim that they protect agricultural trade, the truth is that these bills are incredibly harmful to farm animal welfare, as they would roll back progress that has been made on the state and local level. These bills aim to strip state and local governments of their right to make policies that protect our natural resources and environment, human health, improved animal welfare standards, as well as consumer health and safety through the food we eat. If passed, these laws would cripple states’ rights while furthering the power of a handful of multinational corporations. These bills put human health, animal welfare, and environmental protection at risk.

Make your voice heard

Call or email your two Senators and House Representative and tell them you support the passage of these common sense bills for animals and oppose bills that would harm animals and the environment. Be sure to tell them the name of the bill and bill number you are calling about. Look up your elected officials.

Urge industries to protect our planet and stop factory farming!

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