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THE REAL INCONVENIENT TRUTH: Animal agriculture severely under-reported in climate change news coverage

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Animals reared for meat and other food products create on average 37% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But mentions of animal agriculture’s role in climate change is less than 5% of all news articles.

SOPHIE KEVANY: ‘There’s an expectation that information worth knowing will find its way into the headlines. War, famine, disease, hurricane paths… and, more recently, climate change. It’s all there. One item, however, regularly escapes scrutiny: the role our animal-centric food production plays in global warming and environmental pollution.

Estimates vary, but animals reared for beef, milk, cheese, eggs and other consumer products create between 14.5% and 51% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to a recent study published by Sentient Media, a more realistic figure could be as high as 37%. The media coverage of this? Less than 5%, according to one estimate.

“There are several studies from the US, Brazil, Spain and Italy showing that, by volume, the media historically paid very little attention to animal agriculture’s GHG emissions in their climate change coverage,” said Dr. James Painter… “By volume, mentions of animal agriculture’s role in climate change is probably less than 5% of all articles covering climate change. Much more attention was paid to transport and energy,” he said… Painter said one result of the minimal coverage is “very low public awareness” of the climate impact of animal agriculture.

Professor Tim Benton had a similar comment. Research director at UK think tank, Chatham House, and a specialist in energy, environment and resources, Benton believes the under-reporting of animal agriculture’s role in climate change is only part of the problem, however. Other under-reported agricultural issues are water, air and soil degradation and biodiversity loss. All of which, he said, needs to be better understood by the public…

Comments from US-based experts are not vastly different. “The majority of articles about climate change ignore current meat production, which globally contributes as much or a bit more than the emissions from every plane, train, and automobile,” said public policy engineer, Matt Ball of the Good Food Institute which promotes plant- and cell-based alternatives to animal and fish proteins…

Painter has a few ideas about why animal agriculture’s role in climate change has been so under-reported. One possibility is that, until recently, NGOs did not campaign around it. Another is the close ties between US agri-business interests and politics, which might make it harder for the issue to surface… So-called ‘ag-gag’ laws designed to silence animal abuse whistleblowers on US intensive farms have not helped either, Painter said…

Other vested interests include the pharmaceutical companies that provide the animal antibiotics, the companies that genetically select and produce chickens, the agro-chemical fertilizer suppliers (of which America’s Koch brothers are an example), and the equipment manufacturers who make cages, sow stalls and more.

Potential newsroom bias should not be ignored either. Animal proteins remain at the heart of most people’s daily food routine and journalists are no exception. And eating habits are hard to change. Livestock emissions, and what that means in terms of breakfast, lunch and dinner, might be an inconvenient truth that’s easily sidelined’.  SOURCE…

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