factory farming causes global warming, antibiotic resistance and disease

A letter sent to the World Health Organization (WHO) and signed by over 200 experts in global health, medicine, biology and climate research has identified factory farming as the common cause behind the three most urgent health crises of our time. . . .

The letter identifies climate change, antibiotic resistance and chronic disease as central concerns to global health and then further identifies factory farming as the crucial cause that links all of them.

WHO estimates that climate change will kill an additional quarter of a million people each year between 2030 and 2050. But nearly 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the raising of animals on farms: that’s a bigger contribution to greenhouse gasses than transportation, though transportation gets much more attention. The letter’s authors say that expert forecasts show that, without drastic changes in meat production, “agriculture will consume half the world’s carbon budget necessary for keeping global temperature rises under 2° Celsius by 2050.” Factory farming devastatingly contributes to global warming both because of the raising of farm animals and because of the deforestation required to facilitate it.

Diseases that have become resistant to antibiotics kill 700,000 people a year. At the current trend, by the year 2050, drug-resistant microbes could kill up to 9.5 million people a year. But factory farming’s need of antibiotics for overcrowded animals is a major cause of antibiotic resistance in the people who consume those animals. The authors of the letter say that several studies show that antibiotic resistant bacteria in farm animals is closely associated with antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans.

Factory farming has facilitated the West’s obsession with eating meat that has led to the shocking rise in cancer, stroke, obesity, cardiovascular mortality, lung disease and mortality. The scientists who wrote the letter cite evidence that diets high in processed and red meat contributed to over half a million deaths in 2015.

The authors plead that “Just as the WHO has bravely confronted companies that harm human health by peddling tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages, it must not waver in advocating for the regulation of industrial animal farming.”

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