Livestock industry lobbies UN to further support meat production | Agriculture
Livestock groups have lobbied the UN to support more meat and dairy production ahead of a high-level summit on food sustainability, documents show.
Most experts agree that livestock are responsible for at least 14% of global emissions, while a study released last week found that using animals for meat causes twice as much greenhouse gases than plant-based foods.
The United Nations Food Systems Summit (UN FSS), which is being held this week in New York, aims to make global agricultural systems more sustainable, presenting itself as a transformational “peoples summit”.
But documents obtained by Greenpeace Unearthed – the investigative arm of the environmental NGO Greenpeace – and viewed by the Guardian, show that livestock industry organizations threaten to withdraw if other members of their group discussions at the top do not share their “common goal”.
In the months leading up to the summit, focus groups – known as clusters – worked to produce position papers offering sustainable food system solutions.
In a draft document, dated June 15, members of the “sustainable livestock” cluster stated that “advances in intensive livestock systems” mean that they can “contribute to the preservation of planetary resources and the provision of effective nutrition ”.
Environmental and other experts, however, have indicated that lower levels of production and consumption of animal protein are essential to reduce climate degradation and protect the environment.
Almost at the same time as the livestock group’s draft document was released, 11 new members were added to the cluster, including a farm animal welfare NGO and environmental scientists. The addition sparked a letter of complaint to the UN from some of the original members, describing the new members as wishing to “promote an anti-herding ideological stance.”
The letter, dated June 26, which threatened the withdrawal of signatories, stated that while it understands the “need to be inclusive”, to function well “the group must share a common goal” and describes the addition of new members as “a flagrant breach of trust”.
It has been signed by the International Meat Secretariat, the International Poultry Council, the Global Dairy Platform, the International Dairy Federation, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, the International Egg Commission and the International Federation of Industry. of animal feed and an animal pharmaceutical representative called HealthforAnimals. So far, no member has withdrawn.
Michael Fakhri, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, criticized the summit’s failure to consult and engage voices outside the meat industry from the start. “It started with the meat industry itself and then included people who want to switch from the current system smoothly. It was only towards the end that more critical voices were invited.
One of the 11 new additions to the cluster, Philip Lymbery, managing director of the NGO Compassion in World Farming, said he found the original members to be “strongly focused on industry interests”. Upon joining, Lymbery said he found the solution offered by the cluster to be “essentially Following animal production ”with some additional“ technical innovations ”that would make production more sustainable.
Another new member, Matthew Hayek, assistant professor of environmental studies at New York University, said he believes the UN FSS should not have given “incumbent industries a platform. to deny or minimize the scientific consensus “.
Of the three position papers produced by the cluster for the summit, only one describes the drawbacks of industrial agriculture and clearly indicates that “a significant reduction in the global consumption of meat and dairy products is necessary” to achieve the goals. climate in Paris.
“Our perspective on reducing consumption was limited to just one of the three solution papers; the other two still mainly emphasize [livestock]industry-aligned solutions, ”said Hayek.
One of the signatories to the livestock group’s complaint letter, Hsin Huang, secretary general of the International Meat Secretariat (IMS), said he found the idea of the IMS putting pressure on the FSS to the “laughable” UN.
Challenging the claim that livestock industry groups were the first to be contacted by the UN FSS, Huang said the IMS and other private livestock groups had failed. was officially invited to join the livestock cluster only on June 4 of this year – although he said “voluntary clusters” had worked before that.
Asked about the reduction in the number of animals, especially intensive livestock in developed countries, Huang said that industrial agriculture has met customer needs by providing safe and inexpensive food with long shelf life. longer.
He added that the IMS was “extremely supportive of better animal welfare” and not “necessarily against the idea of reducing” the number of animals, but it was a complicated question.
For example, he said, reducing the number of animals “in developed countries will only produce more animals in less efficient systems in developing countries. And that will exacerbate the emissions problems, the environmental problems, the resource use problems and the welfare problems. “
A joint statement by the Global Dairy Platform and the International Dairy Platform did not directly address the lobbying issues or other criticisms raised, but said: “The global community needs the recommendations made by the Food Systems Summit are balanced and not based on ideology. or trade-offs that could endanger food security and long-term livelihoods.
When asked when the livestock cluster discussions started and which groups were invited first, the UN said in an emailed statement that the “Sustainable Livestock Solutions Cluster has evolved in the process. of open public engagement which took place in two “phases” between December 2020 and May 2021. “
The email confirmed that new members were introduced to the breeding cluster in June, but does not give a date. He added that as a “summit of solutions”, the UN food summit “aimed to create space for new and sometimes difficult, science-based conversations”, and as a “summit from peoples, the approach was to ensure that all voices are heard, including those of the most marginalized farmers to governments to private companies, accepting that there are sometimes divergent points of view.
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