A majority of UK adults believe the factory farming sector is ignoring the climate crisis and animal welfare in favor of higher profit margins, according to a new study.
Animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) commissioned YouGov to conduct public opinion research on existing farming systems. The data revealed that 69% of UK adults believe that industrial farming prioritizes profits over tackling the climate emergency. It also found that 81% said profits were placed before livestock and other animal care.
The data was collected to support CIWF’s End of the Line for Factory Farming campaign, which launched on November 12. She’s already garnered celebrity endorsements from Jane Goodall and Emmy Award-winning actor Brian Cox, among others.
“Tackling climate change is one of the most important undertakings of our time – but to turn this crisis around we need to tackle its root causes – and industrial animal farming is one of them,” Cox said in a statement.
“Well beyond the suffering it inflicts on animals, intensive agriculture threatens the very future of our planet.”
British distaste for factory farming
In addition to not prioritizing environmental impact and animal welfare implications, industrial agriculture was seen as contrary to consumer welfare. Two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they believed industrial agriculture put profits before human health. This could refer to zoonotic diseases such as avian flu, swine superbugs and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our research shows that the UK public is unconvinced by industry propaganda that factory farming is ‘necessary to feed the world,'” said Dr Nick Palmer, head of Compassion in World Farming, in a press release. “Big meat companies support a highly profitable system without considering the climate, health and animal welfare impacts they cause.”
As part of its research, YouGov interviewed participants from a total of 13 countries. Despite its traditionally meat-heavy cuisine, France showed similar levels of awareness to the UK. Three-quarters (75%) of participants agreed that industrial agriculture ignores the environment in favor of profit. Additionally, 80% felt that animal welfare was also neglected.
Animal welfare concerns go unnoticed
Participants seemed concerned about the impact of factory farming on animal welfare. However, research conducted earlier this year identified a significant gap in consumer knowledge. Vegan chicken brand VFC commissioned a survey of 5,204 people. It demonstrated that the majority had little or no knowledge of how factory-farmed chicken is produced.
Less than 15% of respondents knew that almost all chickens in the UK are raised in factories. Additionally, many believed they were shot between three and six months old. In fact, most are killed around six weeks of age.
After seeing pictures of a typical chicken farm, only 16% of people were willing to eat meat produced there. This agrees with about 80% of respondents saying it’s important to know where food comes from.
Demystifying the myth of “eating local”
Despite YouGov’s findings, the UK population remains largely in the dark about the environmental impact of animal farming as a whole.
Climate and food experts, including UK government-appointed food czar Henry Dimbleby, have called for a drastic reduction in meat and dairy consumption to avert the climate crisis. However, UK consumers believe locally produced products are the answer.
In a recent survey, again conducted by YouGov, it was revealed that 41% of participants believed that eating local meat and dairy products was the most effective way to reduce emissions from animal agriculture. However, transport represents a relatively small proportion (10 to 20%) of livestock emissions.
Animal agriculture – including raising animals for meat and dairy – is responsible for at least 14.5% of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a major driver of deforestation, further exacerbating the climate crisis. This is especially true in the Amazon rainforest, one of the world’s most valuable natural carbon sequestration sites.
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