Renowned conservationist Dr Jane Goodall has called for the gradual elimination of factory farming, citing the "extreme cruelty" inflicted on animals involved in the industry. Speaking in a video message at the Extinction or Regeneration Conference in London, the 89-year-old emphasized the detrimental effects of agro-industries on human health, climate, and biodiversity. As the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute UK, Dr Goodall expressed her concern over the current state of Planet Earth, attributing much of its suffering to human activities.
In her address, Dr Goodall drew attention to the major contributions of agro-industry to climate change and biodiversity loss. She highlighted the widespread clearance of "vast areas of land," the heavy reliance on chemical pesticides, and the confinement of billions of animals in cramped conditions around the world. The call for action comes alongside the release of a new report by conference partner Compassion in World Farming. The report reveals the pressing need for substantial reductions in the top 25 high and upper-middle income countries to ensure the future health of people, animals, and the planet.
According to Dr Goodall, factory-farmed animals emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases, further exacerbating the climate crisis. Additionally, she raised concerns about the adverse effects of antibiotics and hormones used in raising animals under poor conditions on human health. Describing the conditions of animals in factory farms as "unacceptable," Dr Goodall emphasized the need for a phase-out of such facilities. She advocated for allowing farmed animals to roam in fields when weather conditions permit, stating, "It’s now proven that each animal, that the cow, pig, sheep, goat, rabbit, poultry or any other species used for food, is an individual, an individual capable of feeling depression, fear and pain."
Dr Goodall also called for the phasing out of intensive farming practices, monocultures, and the use of agricultural chemicals. Instead, she stressed the importance of endorsing small-scale family farming and regenerative farming practices. By working with nature and restoring biodiversity, these approaches have the potential to slow down climate change and create sustainable methods of farming that can feed future generations. Dr Goodall expressed optimism, citing ongoing experimental work in these fields that has demonstrated the viability of these practices.
Brian Cox, star of the series "Succession," also addressed the conference through a video message, highlighting the broken state of the global food system. Cox pointed out the alarming fact that 820 million people worldwide face hunger, while one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted between production and consumption each year. He lamented the accelerating emergencies related to biodiversity and called for immediate action to rectify a system that is failing people, animals, and the planet. Cox expressed hope that by working together, a sustainable global food system can be built to ensure the well-being of all.
The Compassion in World Farming report, released on the first day of the conference, presented specific reduction targets for the UK. The report indicates that meat consumption needs to be reduced by 71%, dairy consumption by 56%, and egg consumption by 57%. However, the UK's National Food Strategy failed to include these targets, despite a recommendation by the report commissioned to inform the strategy. The research also revealed that Iceland must make the most substantial reduction across all animal-sourced foods, while the US needs to cut its overconsumption of meat by 82%.
Philip Lymbery, the global chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, stressed the urgency of reducing overconsumption in wealthier nations. Lymbery emphasized the responsibility of these nations to take immediate action through national policies to combat their role in driving the climate, health, and nature emergencies. The conference attendees shared a common purpose: to find a pathway towards a more positive future where collective efforts are focused on building a global food system that is sustainable for the sake of humans, animals, and the future of our planet.
The call for change in the agricultural industry comes at a critical time when the impact of human activities on the environment is becoming increasingly apparent. The factory farming model, with its intensive practices and disregard for animal welfare, has long been a subject of concern among activists and experts. Dr Goodall's plea to phase out factory farming and prioritize the well-being of animals reflects a growing understanding of the interconnectedness between animal welfare, human health, and the environment.
Factory farming not only contributes significantly to climate change and biodiversity loss but also raises ethical questions about the treatment of sentient beings. Dr Goodall's assertion that each animal used for food is an individual capable of feeling depression, fear, and pain challenges the notion that they are mere commodities. This perspective demands a reevaluation of our approach to animal agriculture and urges us to consider more compassionate and sustainable alternatives.