Joel Amenya, a butcher, displays meat at his Kisii Municipal Market butchery [Standard]

The demand for animal protein has skyrocketed in recent years. This has put tremendous pressure on production of meat, milk and eggs to match up with the ever rising needs of the ballooning consumers. The food animals are therefore selected to grow as fast as possible and produce using minimal resources such as space while maximising on profits. This system is called factory farming. But what are the consequences of this kind of farming?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts that global meat production will continue to grow, by 40 million tonnes a year by 2029. A new study by World Animal Protection (WAP) has revealed the true impact of factory farming on our planet. It shows that ongoing expansion of factory farming will roll back the gains made to cut down on green house gas emissions.

Every year, 80 billion animals are farmed globally, most on 'cruel' factory farms. The 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 United States alone are equivalent to keeping 29 million cars on the road for a year. Kenya is about to join this league as livestock farming intensifies and population pressure continues to build.

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.

According to the report, land is cleared to grow crops to feed farmed animals, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying wild animal habitats. Crops are also traded globally, destined for factory farms. 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 cruel practices on factory farms.

It comes as factory farming is expected to explode, as demand for meat increase as much as 30 per cent in Africa, 18 per cent in Asia Pacific, 12 per cent in Latin America, and 9 per cent in North America by 2030. Dr Victor Yamo Farming Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection says: “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 as factory farmed meat."

Call on the government

Factory farming, according to Dr Yamo, 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.

“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,” says Dr Yamo.

WAP is calling on the African governments to stop approving new factory farms now by imposing a moratorium for a 10-year period. This will shift policy and funding decisions away from factory farming in support of humane and sustainable food systems.

Consumers are being urged to choose to eat less meat. By consuming fewer animal products and choosing higher welfare products, that is eat less and better, we can help to safeguard our climate and planet, and protect animal welfare.

[Paul Kang’ethe is a Veterinary Surgeon and the Resident Vet at FarmKenya]