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13 largest dairy companies emit as much greenhouse gas as the UK

According to a new report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit research organization that promotes sustainable food, farming, and trade systems, the 13 biggest dairy companies in the world have the same combined greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as the UK, the sixth biggest economy in the world.

In only two years, by 2017, these emissions rose approximately 10%, even after the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, almost reaching UK’s annual emissions of 350m tonnes of GHG a year.

Photo: We Animals

Another interesting aspect of the research is that it claims that the growth of giant dairy companies over the past decade has forced milk prices below the cost of production, a situation that generated a crisis in rural livelihoods, as farmers began to require subsidies to stay afloat.

More than 90% of the corporate dairy industries’ emissions are produced by the cows themselves, mostly in the form of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from the likes of packaging, transportation and fertilizers.

"Methane emissions pack a huge punch and warm the planet in the near-term, meaning they could trigger runaway climate change”, says Joseph Poore, a researcher from the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford.

And there's more: in 2016, only three of the biggest meat companies in the world — JBS, Cargill, and Tyson — were accountable for more greenhouse gas emissions than France. The five biggest agricultural companies are responsible for more pollutants than the main oil companies, like Exxon, Shell and BP.

Photo: We Animals

Global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 80 to 90% by the second half of this century. Specialists alert that, even if we stop the production of energy and transportation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, this would not be enough, because the greenhouse gases generated by agriculture would be much larger and more destructive.

A recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Global Dairy Platform says something similar: “In order to limit temperature rise, the dairy sector must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and work towards a low-carbon future”.

The main problem is that the global demand for dairy is increasing and there is no way the world can have enough animal products to supply this demand in a sustainable way. For the second half of the century, there will be greater world population growth and, if nothing changes, more demand for diets rich in meat and dairy, which means that global agricultural emissions could double in 50 to 60 years. This is because some people believe, deeply influenced by advertising, that drinking milk and eating meat is healthy and helps to avoid malnutrition.

But, on the contrary, milk is not as good. A study concluded that the more milk men consumed as teenagers, the more bone fractures they experienced as adults. In addition, another study showed that the consumption of dairy products has been linked to prostate and breast cancer, susceptibility to diabetes and could shorten life span through increased oxidative stress.

Switching to more sustainable, vegan diets is one of the best things we can do to preserve our existence on this planet. Eating plant-based is associated with lesser environmental impact than the current average ‘meat-based’ diet. Do it for you, animals, and the planet. We invite you to join our 21 Veg Challenge and make this change to a more sustainable lifestyle!


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