Several academic experts have published a commentary stating that the omission of meat-eating reduction from proposals in the first instalment of the UN roadmap to tackle the climate crisis and end hunger is bewildering. They also criticise the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s report for dismissing the potential of plant-based proteins to reduce the impact of animal agriculture on the environment.

Animal agriculture produces at least 12% (some say that even up to 87%) of total global greenhouse gas emissions and uses 83% of farmland to provide 18% of calories, so ignoring this in an official UN document indicates how much the lobbyists of animal agriculture can influence decision-makers.

The commentary, published in the journal Nature Food, was signed by Cleo Verkuijl, Jan Dutkiewicz, Laura Scherer, Paul Behrens, Michael Lazarus, Maria José Hötzel, Rebecca Nordquist, and Matthew Hayek.

One of the authors, Cleo Verkuijl, of the Stockholm Environment Institute US, said to the Guardian, “It’s very striking: the FAO doesn’t include one of the clearest interventions that would help meet both environmental and health targets…Also really surprising is the fact that the FAO completely dismisses alternative proteins,” she said. These had been shown to have far smaller environmental impacts than conventional meat but the FAO claimed, without providing evidence, that plant-based meats had “nutritional deficiencies”.”

Another author, Prof Matthew Hayek, of New York University, said: “The FAO fails to present any methods or concrete data behind their claim that incremental tweaks in farmed animal management alone can meet our climate goals. With all that food systems are trying to accomplish in the next couple of decades, there are a lot of needles that need to be threaded: increasing food provision while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing health and nutrition while decreasing disease risks, foodborne illnesses and pandemics..“Across the board, [cutting animal product consumption] widens the eye of those needles. To disregard that major opportunity for multiple co-benefits across climate, food security and health is just bewildering, and their reasons for omitting that are opaque.”

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.