Meat industry promotes factory farming at UN food systems summit

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A coalition of meat industry associations lobbied for the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit to boost global meat consumption and encourage intensive farming despite its environmental footprint, Earthen can reveal.

The findings prompted the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, to warn that powerful agro-industrial interests could “dominate the discussion”, leading to disappointing results.

In a draft position paper prepared in June for the summit, a group of industry associations, including the International Meat Secretariat and the International Poultry Council called on the UN to support the increase in meat consumption in the world, arguing that “progress in intensive livestock systems” “would help to preserve planetary resources”.

The associations – which represent leading companies that make up a large part of the global meat supply chain – drafted the document in their capacity as key members of the summit’s “sustainable livestock” group, a task force set up. in place to recommend policies for the summit.

The document goes against calls from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for a reduction in meat consumption, especially in rich countries, to fight against climate change. The IPCC has warned that failure to shift to more sustainable land use could undermine efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels.

The United Nations Food Systems Summit, which takes place in New York on September 23 [check], make recommendations that should shape government policies on food and agriculture around the world and inform future global agreements on climate change and biodiversity.

The draft document, which favored programs and industry efficiency rather than reducing meat consumption in developed countries, went on to say: […] Animal husbandry will also provide solutions to today’s challenges.

Where’s the beef?

The draft document sparked a rift between the meat industry, supported by delegations from Brazil and Argentina – two major meat-producing countries – and some scientists and NGOs, who were added to the group once ‘he had already produced the initial draft document.

Philip Lymbery, Global CEO of Compassion in World Farming, who was part of this new group of contributors, said Earthen: “When I was appointed Co-Head of the Sustainable Livestock Solutions Cluster, the first thing I noticed was that the working group was strongly focused on industry interests.

“The main solution proposed was that the world needed a lot more animal production, modified by technical innovations, led by roadmaps defined by farmers. It sounded more of the same, with lip service to sustainability. Alternative voices in the task force had been largely ignored.

At the end of June – when all the other clusters of the summit had submitted their documents – the members of the group clashed during a conference call intended to negotiate a new project. Based on ratings seen by Earthen, a representative from the International Poultry Council said he could not support any statement suggesting the industry is not already sustainable, while the International Dairy Federation opposed developing a “transition” to sustainable agriculture.

Dr Marco Springmann, an Oxford sustainability scholar added to the cluster alongside Lymbery, said: “It felt like an unscientific process and a fight I didn’t want to get involved in.”

The heated appeal prompted meat industry associations to write to senior UN officials threatening to withdraw from the summit in protest. Organizations including the Meat Secretariat and the Poultry Council have written in favor of anti-breeding rhetoric within this cluster.

If the concerns of the meat organizations were not taken into account, they warned: “We cannot continue to devote time to a process in which it is clear that we are only here to bring a veneer of inclusiveness. when in reality some cluster leaders pursue their own ideology. agenda.”

Hsin Huang, secretary general of the International Meat Secretariat, told Unearthed: “Reducing animal numbers 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 better way forward is to think about how to combine the best aspects of intensive (mainly industrialized) and smaller-scale (mainly developing countries) systems.


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