There are many problems related to animal agriculture, though critiques of it are often isolated to a certain field. For example, climate scientists might call attention to the lion’s share of greenhouse gases that the consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy produces (18% according to the FAO) but disregard animal welfare; advocates for animal welfare might call attention to the inhumane conditions for many of the 60 billion plus animals involved in livestock worldwide (more than half of which live on factory farms under conditions of intensive confinement) while overlooking food insecurity that the steady, demand-driven increase in food prices causes; and development practitioners might focus on the unsustainability of dedicating vast resources to an inefficient production of calories (according to Oxfam, a kilogram of beef requires roughly 15,500 liters of water while a kilogram of wheat requires roughly 1,300 liters) while at the same time disregarding public health risks related to obesity and food-born illnesses. This siloing of concerns has been one of the reasons why an issue that has such wide-reaching negative impacts would not generate a proportionately large public debate.
Besides a handfull of best-selling books that have increased public awareness of the side-effects of the mass consumption of animal products, in recent years a number of documents have helped to engender a serious, albeit disproportionately small, debate at the national and multilateral level:
1. FAO (2006) Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Problems. FAO: Rome.
2. The World Bank (2005) Managing the Livestock Revolution: Policy and Technology to Address the Negative Impacts of a Fast-Growing Sector. The World Bank: Washington DC.
3. The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (2008) Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Baltimore, MD.
4. Oxfam International (2011) Growing a Better Future: Food Justice in a Resource Constrained World. Oxfam: Oxford, England.
5. UNEP (2009) The Environmental Food Crisis – The Environment’s Role in Averting Future Food Crises; A UNEP Rapid Response Assessment. United Nations Environment Programme, GRID-Arendal: Norway.