We’ve all heard the rallying cry that eating less meat can mitigate the climate crisis. From Silicon Valley CEO’s to celebrity billionaires to New York Times columnists, the urban middle-class has embraced the idea that going vegan or vegetarian, and switching to farm-to-table shopping habits can reduce our harmful emissions. But the science is mixed: some studies show that giving up meat would only reduce individual carbon footprints by about 3%, while others suggest that you can achieve a 20-30% reduction by simply halving your meat consumption. These figures become murkier once you consider that the grain and produce industry is also fossil fuel intensive and dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides that deplete our soil, water, and air.
What we eat and where we buy our groceries as individuals or families is certainly a part of the effort to fight the climate crisis but market based solutions based on individual consumer choices are often difficult to scale globally and slow to have impact. Critically, they are exclusionary to communities that have fewer food choices or are from cultures that eat meat — and any solution that doesn’t include all of us is bound to fail.
To truly cut back harmful emissions and begin to mitigate the climate crisis, we need to work on systems-wide transformation that phases out harmful practices and nurtures sustainable and inclusive alternatives. We need to demand better regulations and policies from our lawmakers, fight back against corporate abuse of power, and invest in organizations that are nurturing alternatives to factory farming.
Champion policy that phases out factory farming and advocates for systems-wide reform
Despite the socioeconomic and environmental costs of CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations),industrial agriculture corporations continue to establish and expand factory farms across the country. Our current policies incentivize industrial overproduction, enable pollution and extraction, and divert resources away from small and medium producers. We need to transform our federal farm policies so they work for farmers and farm workers, and eaters and the planet, not a few giant corporations. The good news is that organizers and advocates across the country are already working with lawmakers to craft policies that are a step in the right direction:
- The Farm Systems Reform Act lays out clear goals which include phasing out factory farms and supporting alternatives.
- Local or regional moratoriums on factory farming can be life changing for rural communities who are otherwise burdened first and worst by the polluting impacts of a factory farm in their neighbourhood, and add to a nationwide effort to reduce factory farming.
- Strengthening regulation around pollutants and discharge, and fighting for factory farms to be included under laws such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act can go a long way in diverting the environmental costs of factory farming back to the corporations.
Fight corporate abuse within our food systems
The meat industry in the US is dominated by a handful of giant corporations who control over 70% of the market. These corporations are the primary drivers of factory farming, and as long as they have power and are able to bend policy and programs to support their bottom lines, factory farming will continue to thrive. Ending corporate control of our food systems is a critical step towards phasing out factory farming. HEAL is working with our members and allies to demand stronger antitrust enforcement from the federal government, and our members are organizing with their communities to push back against corporate power locally.
Resource and amplify organizations fighting factory farms
The movement to phase out factory farming is growing, thanks to the leadership of several incredible organizations who have been working closely with the communities most burdened by factory farms. Learning more about their work, answering their calls to action and donating to their efforts can go a long way in moving forward a vision for animal agriculture without factory farming. Here are some organizations within our network that you can support.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
- Food Chain Workers Alliance
- Land Stewardship Project (LSP). Check out our Member Dispatch with LSP here.
- Idaho Organization for Resource Councils (IORC)
- North American Marine Alliance (NAMA)
- Pesticide Action Network
- Public Justice
- Uprooted and Rising: Block Corporate Salmon
Invest in alternatives
We don’t need corporations to decide how our food is grown, processed and distributed. Indigenous communities across the US have been practicing regenerative ranching for centuries, and continue to do so successfully. Small and medium farmers and ranchers have been growing livestock using pasture-based methods of animal agriculture though it is becoming more and more difficult for them to remain viable . We need to push for policies that incentivize more farmers and ranchers to move away from operating factory farms and enable them to establish and operate sustainable farming operations that benefit them and their communities. Here’s a list of organizations that are driving this change: