2020 has been an unforgettable year, with our attention divided between fears over coronavirus and anxiety over climate change. What has become increasingly obvious is that these two threats have something in common; both are heavily linked to our consumption of animal products.
Animal agriculture is responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Oxford University researchers found that almost every animal product creates far more emissions than almost every plant product. Quite simply, we cannot tackle climate change while we farm and eat animals on an industrial scale.
Pandemic experts warn that because of overcrowded, squalid conditions, factory farms – especially chicken farms – are breeding grounds for the next global pandemic.1 Already these farms have given us H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (avian flu), the latter having a 60 percent mortality rate.2
More than one billion tonnes of food must be grown to feed the billions of animals we farm3 – far more than is needed if people were to eat plants. That farmland has to come from somewhere, and all too often it is taken from the wild.
In recent years, more than 80 percent of deforestation in Brazil was to graze farmed animals,4 and still more forests are destroyed to make way to grow crops to feed animals on farms around the world. Deforestation is serious for lots of reasons. It pushes wild species to extinction. It displaces indigenous peoples. It drives climate change. And it brings us in ever closer contact with wild animals and any viruses they may harbour, raising the risk of another pandemic.
Catastrophic climate breakdown and global pandemics could not be more serious, but they are not inevitable. If we act now, the future can be better. So, let’s go into 2021 with positivity and a determination to do all we can to protect our planet, its wild spaces and the health and wellbeing of all its inhabitants. To do that, we must change our diets.
Today, we are urging everyone to help build a better future by signing up to try vegan this January with Veganuary. Together, we can create a world that is kinder and safer for all.
This letter can also be viewed at Veganuary where several influential key people and organisations from across the world have signed it.