Forest fires in  SINOP Municipality, Brazil

Concerning climate impact of cruel factory farmed meat revealed

Press release

A new study by World Animal Protection has revealed the true impact of factory farming on our planet, finding that ongoing expansion of factory farming will put achievement of the Paris Climate Agreement goals and a climate-safe future out of reach.

Every year, 80 billion animals are farmed globally, most on cruel factory farms. This latest report, Climate change and cruelty: revealing the true impact of factory farming, analysed the environmental impact of factory farmed chicken and pork in four of the world’s biggest factory farming hot spots. It found that emissions from chicken meat in Brazil, China, Netherlands and US alone are equivalent to keeping 29 million cars on the road for a year.

Pork and chicken are often overlooked as contributors to climate change, as more emphasis is placed on the methane that cows produce from digestion and manure. This report exposes the hidden climate impact of factory farming, showing that we need to shift diets away from pork and chicken as well as beef to plant-based diets if we are to combat climate change from our food system.

Four of the biggest factory farming hot spots were assessed – Europe (using data from the Netherlands), US, Brazil and China. Top-line findings show that:

  • Land is cleared in biodiversity hot spots to grow crops to feed farmed animals, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying wild animal habitats. Crops are traded globally, destined for factory farms
  • When deforestation to grow feed crops – especially soya - for global trade is considered, this doubles the overall climate change impact of factory farmed meat in the Netherlands and increases the impact by more than one and a half times in China
  • A 50% reduction in consumption of both chicken and pork by 2040, along with a 50% adoption of higher welfare products would halve the annual climate impacts of chicken and pork production across these four hot spots
  • This would be equivalent to taking 45 million cars off the road for a year in the four hot spots combined.

The study is the first to measure how eating less factory farmed chicken and pork could help safeguard our climate if combined with ending the cruellest practices on factory farms.

It comes as factory farming is expected to explode, as demand for meat is expected to increase as much as 30% in Africa, and 18% in Asia Pacific, 12% in Latin America, and 9% in North America by 2030.

Jacqueline Mills, Global head of farming at World Animal Protection said:

“When people think of the major causes of climate change, they often think about burning fossil fuels for industrial purposes, energy and transport. But there’s a hidden climate culprit, and one that could be on your plate – factory farmed meat.

 “Factory farming - either directly or indirectly through the feed chain, is to blame for the destruction of vital habitats, the displacement of wildlife, and is the largest cause of animal suffering on the planet. Sentient animals are deprived of any quality of life, and instead suffer their entire lives – many never see sunlight, roam freely in a field, or even have a life free of pain. This is cruelty at its very worst and it must end.

“We need governments to step-up to meet commitments to address deforestation and emissions by ending factory farming. They need to recognise the damage it does to animals, people and planet. We are running out of time to save our planet, and they are out of excuses not to address it.”

World Animal Protection is also calling for:

  • Governments to stop approving new factory farms now by imposing a moratorium for a 10-year period. Governments are the key player in subsidizing factory farming. They have the power to shift policy and funding decisions away from factory farming in support of humane and sustainable food systems
  • Industry to transition to a humane and sustainable food system by implementing FARMS farm animal welfare standards as a minimum, halving production of animal protein by 2040, and phasing out sourcing of monocrops like soya as feed for farmed animals
  • Consumers to choose to eat less meat. By consuming fewer animal products and choosing higher welfare products (eat less and better), we can help to safeguard our climate and planet, and protect animal welfare.


Note to editors:

  • The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report released earlier this year acknowledges that action on climate change is needed for food systems including climate mitigation actions to shift towards plant-based diets.

Facts from the report

  • The 4 biggest factory farming markets of the world are China, Brazil, US and Europe.
  • Meat consumption rates in 2020 for the four factory farming hot spots are already high. Europeans consume around 33kg of pork per person per year and 23kg of chicken. Brazilians eat 41kg of chicken and 12kg of pork each year, US people eat 23kg of pork and 50kg of chicken and in China, pork is the most consumed meat, with 26kg per person and 14kg of chicken.
  • The climate impacts of factory farmed chicken alone in these factory farming hot spots is the equivalent of driving almost 29 million cars for a year.
  • Animal feed production is the dominant contributor to factory farming’s climate impact.
  • A million kilograms of factory farmed chicken need almost 4.3 million square metres of land dedicated to animal feed, while a million kilograms of factory farmed pork needs around 5.8 million square metres of land dedicated to animal feed. That’s around the size of 672-906 football fields which is an area that can accommodate up to 1.45 million trees.
  • For every 100 calories of crops fed to farmed animals, only 17-30 calories end up feeding people. Meat and dairy provide only 18% of overall calories and 37% of protein for humans, but they use 83% of farmland. It is far better to grow crops that feed humans directly through mostly plant-based diets.
  • Methane from the manure of factory farmed pigs accounts for 21% of overall pork emissions for Netherlands, 22% for US, and 24% for Brazil.
  • By 2040, China’s per person annual consumption of chicken is expected to have increased from current levels to 15kg and pork to 31kg. Increases in chicken consumption are also expected in Brazil, US and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries at 43kg, 53kg and 25kg respectively. For pork, consumption may reach 13kg for Brazil, 24kg for the US and 32kg for OECD countries.
  • Increases in pork and chicken consumption will result in notable increases in climate and environmental impacts.
  • Conversely, reducing pork per person by 50% by 2040 would result in a 41% decrease in climate change impacts from pork consumption in China, 54% for the EU, 44% for Brazil and 43% for the US.