Voluntary commitment to reduce animal production
What's the problem?
70% of German agricultural production (in grain units) is accounted for by the animal production sector, which uses more than 50% of the agricultural land for forage and additionally imports 1/3 of the used forage proteins (all data of 2013 according to BMEL).
Emissions from animal production, which contributed 88 million tonnes of CO2/Eq or 9% of the German greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 (GLEAM/FAO), are correspondingly high and rising.
The main cause of these emissions is the great land consumption of animal products: For the production of 1 calorie of animal food 2-30 times more land is needed than for the same amount of plant food (cereals: 1qm/1Mkal, beef: 31.2 qm/1Mkal according to Peters et. al. 2007, cited according to Schlatzer 2011).
Further problems of animal production are water ecology, miserable working conditions in the fattening- and processing-business and incomprehensible cruelty against the farm animals degraded to commodities. The increasing import of feed protein to Germany is directly responsible for the loss of rainforests in South America and Asia as well as landgrabbing and the resulting expulsion of the local population.
What’s the measure?
The aim is a gradual reduction of the German livestock with the aim of wide renunciation.
On a regional basis, certain forms of animal husbandry can have a climate-protecting effect or be indispensable for other reasons (landscape protection). This should be taken into account. In terms of quantity, these cases should hardly carry any weight.
In order for the reduction of animal production to be socially equitable, investments by small and medium-sized farms must be protected or losses compensated, all in agreement with the farmers. This includes long-term planning security and subsidies for the conversion of farms to plant production and environment/climate protection as new income-generating farm tasks.
The climate effectiveness of this measure depends on two decisive framework conditions:
An important part of the climate impact of this measure is that agricultural land (pastures, meadows, arable land for forage) can be shut down. It is important to ensure that these areas are used for climate protection and that, in particular, rewetting or reforestation takes place. Conventional energy and raw material plant cultivation should therefore be limited in terms of land.
2) It must be prevented that the deconstruction of the domestic animal industry is compensated by imports of animal products from abroad.
What could the implementation look like?
The dismantling of animal production incorporates a large number of different measures, some of which build on each other and some of which depend on each other.
The following measures belong to this implementation:
• An immediate halt to the construction of animal industry facilities • Complete import stop for liquid manure • Stopping all forage imports • Decrease of land quotas for forage cultivation every year. • Reformation of the Immission Protection Law • Structural change programmes for regions previously dominated by the animal industry • Fair basic income in food production • Facilitation of biovegan cultivation • Climate and nature conservation as part of the job description for farmers • Food supply by the government • Workers’ Self-administration
How does this work against climate change?
By completely dismantling animal production in Germany, direct emissions of almost 90 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent would be avoided. However, more vegetable food must be produced in correspondance. Based on the assumption that vegetable protein causes 1/4 of the emissions in comparison to animal protein (this is a rough estimate due to the very wide spread of emissions - cf. in particular Nijdam et al. 2012, p. 764, Fig. 1), the production of additional plant food would generate 22 million tonnes of CO2-Eq, so that the net savings effect would amount to 67 million tonnes of CO2-Eq.
What other positive effects does the measure have?
The dismantling of animal production will tackle enormous torments to which animals are exposed in research facilities, breeding facilities, hatcheries, fattening farms, dairy farms, transports and slaughterhouses, whose acceptance in the population is increasingly dwindling. In a society in which a good and healthy supply of food does not depend on animal components, keeping and killing animals is not necessary. A society that is committed to following values such as solidarity, non-violence and compassion will become more credible to these values through the deconstruction of animal production, which will also have an impact on human coexistence.
A dismantling of animal production also benefits the workers* in the fattening and slaughterhouses, who suffer from massive exploitation. Even if the workers would receive reasonable working hours and a fair wage - from which they are miles away despite repeated promises - the capture, driving, killing and cutting of animals is an unreasonable and psychologically enormously stressful work.
The dismantling of animal production also has positive effects on regions with a high animal density. Currently these exceed the nitrate limits for drinking water frequently, which can cause cancer. (https://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/fleischproduktion-in-deutschland-was-sie-ueber-massentierhaltung-wissen-sollten-1.1899021-3)
There are also positive effects on species diversity, since the current system of destructing diverse habitats and the enormous use of persticides for animal feed cultivation highly benefits the worldwide extinction of species.
Last but not least, antibiotic abuse is of central importance in animal production and can be effectively prevented by reducing animal production. In order for the animals to survive their short existence in far too little space with bad and one-sided feed, they are systematically treated with antibiotics. In the case of chickens and turkeys, individual treatment would usually be too expensive, which is why they are routinely treated with antibiotics through their drinking water. The high and systematic use of antibiotics leads to the formation of antibiotic-resistant germs, which can be transmitted to people who work in fattening facilities or animal transport or close by, during the manufactural process or through the air. This in turn can lead to a prospect where people can no longer be treated with antibiotics and the germs can be transmitted to other people with weak immune systems. According to the Robert Koch Institute, in Germany 10,000 to 20,000 people die of nosocomial infections every year. One of the reasons for this is the use of antibiotics for farm animals. ( https://www.rki.de/SharedDocs/FAQ/Krankenhausinfektionen-und-Antibiotikaresistenz/FAQ_Liste.html, https://www.rki.de/SharedDocs/FAQ/Krankenhausinfektionen-und-Antibiotikaresistenz/FAQ_Liste.html)
How quickly can the measure be implemented?
The deconstruction of animal production can begin immediately, but it would be reasonable to work out a phase-out plan that first dismantles the most damaging sectors and which takes the interests of workers* in the animal industry as well as small farms into account. A quick stop of the forage imports should be a priority.
Effective implementation requires fundamental changes in the political framework. These include the deprivatisation of agriculture and the introduction of grassroots democratic councils of farmers*, food workers* and consumers* to plan and control a comprehensive turnaround in agriculture.
Possible immediate measures within the current political framework include construction stops, intensification of import quotas for animal feed and slurry as well as export quotas for animal products and reorganization of subsidies. A ban on all manure imports by 2021 seems feasible, with regard to animal feed a ban on imports by 2025 and an annually decreasing land quota for animal feed cultivation in Germany with a maximum limit of 15% of arable land by 2050 seem viable. These measures would have to be accompanied by structural change programmes for regions previously dominated by the animal industry.
How long will it take the measure to have an impact?
The measure will have an immediate effect.
An immediate end to the expansion of animal production and the ban on feed imports will directly reduce the clearing of rainforests for the cultivation of forage.
A reduction in animal production, especially cattle farming, will directly reduce methane emissions from ruminants and manure.
The reforestation of areas and the rewetting of moors on the other hand, is a long-term process, that will only bind a relevant amount of greenhouse gases in the next decades.
References to other measures
Animal production is a central component of today's agriculture, both in Germany and globally. This means that there are links to most measures in the context of agriculture.
For example, large parts of drained bog soils are used for forage cultivation and grazing, so that the measure "Protection and rewetting of bog soils" is based on the measure described here.
Problems of social, global or intergenerational justice
The consumption of animal products has a high value in the culture of some human societies, the reduction and the renunciation can be seen as an restraint of the individual freedom. Therefore the transformation has to be accompanied by educational measures and programmes. It is indispensable to provide affordable alternatives.
Animal husbandry is part of a farmers traditional job profile. Many farmers identifiy with it. Therefore it is important to prepare a high sensibility and a willingness for dialogue. Attractive alternatives which include participation, facilitation for rural areas and the protection of livelihoods, are necessary.
Some regions and communes depend on the jobs and earnings in the animal production area. They should not be left alone with the exit, there should rather be a solidary structural change programme, which needs to be planned and implementated considering basic democracy and the perspectives of the affected people.
Many people with migration background work in the slaughter and cutting factories. Obviously they shouldn’t be left alone either. They will be paid compensation for the hard work they had to do under bad conditions for many years. They will get an unconditional right of residence and surely have the opportunity to take part in the planning and implementation of the structural change programes.
Continuative literature and sources
- GLEAM/FAO: gleam.io http://www.fao.org/gleam/en/ Modellauswertung für Deutschland mit Standard-Parametern.
- BUNDESREGIERUNG. Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Bärbel Höhn, Hans-Josef Fell, Cornelia Behm, Ulrike Höfken und der Fraktion BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN – Drucksache 16/4930 – Landwirtschaft und Klimaschutz. 2007.
- HIRSCHFELD, Jesko. Klimawirkungen der Landwirtschaft in Deutschland. Berlin: IÖW, 2008.
- SCHLATZER, Martin. Tierproduktion und Klimawandel ein wissenschaftlicher Diskurs zum Einfluss der Ernährung auf Umwelt und Klima. WienBerlinMünster: Lit, 2011.
- NIJDAM, DURK, TRUDY ROOD, HENK WESTHOEK. "The price of protein: Review of land use and carbon footprints from life cycle assessments of animal food products and their substitutes". Food Policy. 2012, vol 37, p. 760--770.
- BMEL. Statistisches Jahrbuch über Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, 2015.
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