Will we get a moment when the whole factory farming enterprise is revealed as fundamentally rotten? Or will it be more of a slow burn – rather like the banks that repeatedly receive huge fines as the latest mis-selling scandal is exposed? These are the questions I discussed over the weekend with Compassion’s chief policy advisor and veteran campaigner, Peter Stevenson.
Industrial farming is in a shaky place. It devours its own foundations. “Man’s continued existence is completely dependent upon six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains”: attributed to Confucius. But today’s intensive agriculture is undermining soil quality and overusing water.
Factory farming’s need for huge quantities of grain to feed animals has driven the intensification of crop production. With crop monocultures and agro-chemicals, it has degraded agricultural soils, eroding their fertility. Pollinators like bees and other farmland wildlife are in sharp decline.
“Will something finally happen that reveals factory farming for what it is; cruel, inefficient and damaging to the very resources we need for future food production?” Peter asked.
He also pointed out how industrial farming is responsible for unhealthy diets that he believes fuel global warming. Limiting temperature rises to 2°C is the main goal of climate change policy. All sectors recognise that they must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But not livestock. Not our diets. Their emissions are set to soar. So much so that studies warn that agriculture’s emissions will on their own push us almost up to the 2°C threshold by 2050. Only a halving of global meat consumption will allow food’s emissions to diminish.