Lobbyists for Canada's meat and dairy industries are showing up with unprecedented visibility at the COP27 climate conference now underway in Egypt. The industries have at least one representative on the official Canadian delegation, a position that gives easy access to negotiators and closed-door meetings, and have embarked on a charm offensive to convince the climate crowd that meat can be a climate solution.

There is growing awareness about the climate impacts of meat and dairy. Raising livestock is responsible for between 16.5 and 28 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that number is increasing fast. Climate experts agree reversing this trend is vital to meet global climate goals.

A mere 12 nations have singled out livestock in their official commitments to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Only two — Ethiopia and Costa Rica — talk about changing diets to reduce meat and dairy consumption despite calls from environmental and animal rights activists for countries to make the practice commonplace.

Lobbyists for Canada's cattle industry are fighting to prevent more countries, including Canada, from following suit.

"I'm not sure I agree we need to eat less meat," said Bob Lowe, the Canadian vice-president of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, an industry group that counts major meat companies like McDonald's and Cargill among its members. He will be pushing governments to back a "balanced (agricultural) system" that includes animals as essential to sustaining natural carbon sinks like grasslands.

Scientists have determined that livestock in moderation can be part of sustainable, small-scale and culturally relevant farming systems, but almost all agree the intensive agricultural methods dominating the global meat industry need to be curbed. Research also suggests that native ruminants like bison have a more beneficial impact on grassland ecosystems than cattle.

Lowe is joined at the conference by four other staff members from the Canadian Cattle Association, an organization that represents Canada's $9.7-billion beef industry. At least one is attending as part of Canada's roughly 335-person official delegation.

According to a provisional list of conference attendees gathered by the United Nations on Nov. 6, Brittany (Lauren) Martin, a lawyer and farm lobbyist, is representing the Canadian Cattle Association as part of Canada's official delegation. As of Nov. 9, Martin was not listed as one of the organization's staff members on its website, despite her social media profile indicating she still works for the organization.

Lowe, who was also the Canadian Cattle Association's past president, on Friday told Canada's National Observer that another staff member, environment and climate change co-ordinator Mitchell Zoratti, was the organization's representative on Canada's official delegation.

Lobbyists for Canada's meat and dairy industries are showing up with unprecedented visibility at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt. The sectors have at least one representative on the official Canadian delegation, giving access to negotiators.

One representative from Dairy Farmers of Canada, the country's dairy lobby, was also listed as attending the conference, though it wasn't clear whether she was part of the official delegation. In a statement, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the ministry responsible for Canada's delegation, said the final list "will only be available near the end of the meeting."

The UN document shows several lobbyists for the industrial meat industry are attending as part of other countries' delegations. Take Brazil, a country where ranching and industrial soy and corn production for animal feed are a leading cause of deforestation: At least three representatives for JBS, the world's largest producer of beef, are listed under the country's official delegation.

The close ties between national delegations and the global meat industry is "as worrying" as the massive presence of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP26 last year, said Shane Moffatt, head of Greenpeace Canada's nature and food campaign. Roughly 507 fossil fuel lobbyists attended last year's event, more than any other industry group or country.

"It has the same kind of potential to actually misdirect the final outcomes of the COP away from what the planet needs and what the science says needs to happen towards outcomes that reflect the industry's short-term interests," he said.

He wants countries to single out industrial meat production as a climate problem of similar scale to fossil fuels. An official acknowledgment like that would in turn influence national emissions-reduction policies to target meat and direct climate funding toward more sustainable solutions.

That seems unlikely in light of the industry's government-sanctioned presence at the conference and "brazen" campaigns to market industrial livestock farming as a solution to biodiversity loss and climate change, he said. In Canada, these efforts have included partnering with environmental organizations — think Nature Conservancy — to promote the industry's role in preserving grasslands, an important carbon sink and a haven for biodiversity.

Emissions from Canada's livestock industry are generally below the global average because it generates less deforestation and uses more efficient technologies than competitors like Brazil, noted University of Ottawa climate expert Ryan Katz-Rosene. Still, the industry's pitch remains "counterfactual" due to growing demand for meat and the high environmental impacts of large-scale meat production, Moffatt said.

The cattle lobby's efforts have paid off. Lowe said his industry has a "good relationship" with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and is "developing" one with ECCC. The sector has been spared from the government's plan to curb methane emissions, even though about a third of those emissions come from farming and they aren't projected to decrease by 2030. In contrast, New Zealand, another livestock powerhouse, recently announced plans to tax on-farm methane emissions.

Pro-meat lobbying has also successfully softened international efforts to tackle food-related emissions, Lowe said. The industry managed to convince countries at last year's controversial UN Food Systems Summit to replace a "complete anti-meat agenda" with one that included continued intensive animal farming. The change was criticized by environmental activists for undermining the summit's goal of promoting sustainable food systems.

Despite the criticism, Lowe said he has no plans to stop his fight to keep beef on the planet's plates. Next month, he will join fellow lobbyists at COP15, the UN biodiversity conference set to take place in Montreal, to counter calls from a "strong anti-meat movement" for Canada to curb his industry.

Not that he's too worried: "We can contribute to the solution, and I believe our federal government is starting to think along exactly those same lines," he said.

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The method for eliminating dairy milk is already on grocery shelves! The first product that I am aware of and that I am now drinking instead of cow milk is called Next Milk by its producer Silk. It is made of oats, coconut, soy and sunflower and not much more expensive than cow milk even right now. The main difference between the two milks is that the carton of Next Milk needs to be agitated before pouring.
Instead of trying to reduce or tax methane emissions, governments should encourage more development of non-animal milk.
Plant-based meat is not yet ready, but governments should also encourage its development. The same protein and nutritious food can be achieved without the animal in the process.
Also note that pigs are much less polluting than cows, and chicken are the least polluting of all farm animals, by far.

It is a mistake to think that anything is solved by reducing meat consumption and focusing on production of plant based protein. The problems with crop farming are just as serious as with meat production. Cropland is more at fault when it comes to biodiversity loss with it's dependence on monocultures, cultivation, and the use of pesticides and fertilizer. To realize this you need to take a tour of our prairie provinces and look at the biodiversity loss on farmland as compared to pasture. There are improvements that need to be made to both beef production and crop farming but demonizing one of them is not useful.
There is a good reason the The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited support ranching and it is science based.

George Monbiot lays it out succinctly:

"A review of evidence from over 100 studies found that when livestock are removed from the land, the abundance and diversity of almost all groups of wild animals increases. The only category in which numbers fall when grazing by cattle or sheep ceases are those that eat dung. Where there are cattle, there are fewer wild mammals, birds, reptiles and insects on the land, and fewer fish in the rivers. Perhaps most importantly – because of their crucial role in regulating living systems – there tend to be no large predators. ...

"Pasture-fed meat production ... is the major cause of agricultural sprawl. People rail against urban sprawl: the profligate use of land for housing and infrastructure. But the world’s urban areas occupy just 1% of the planet’s land surface, in comparison with the 26% used for grazing. Agricultural sprawl inflicts a very high ecological opportunity cost: the missing ecosystems that would otherwise exist."


It sounds as if you live in an urban area and have a view of agriculture that comes from media and not from experience. You did not address in your reply the problems with producing plant protein. One of them being that producing beans, peas and lentils require much pesticide spraying. The last spraying of glyphosate is only two weeks before harvest. Not very appetizing. Living in an area with lots of cultivated land (ie, lots of beans, peas, lentils and canola) we often see that farming disrupts the natural hydrologic processes in the watershed and that the only place many species at risk still exist is on the land that is not farmed, but used for cattle pasture. I have sat on my horse and watched a tractor going round and round a lentil field spraying herbicide on a monoculture. On my side of the fence there were cows, dozens of native grass species, berry bushes, trees, shrubs, deer, hawks, curlews, owls, rabbits, coyotes, frogs, ducks, wading birds, and lots and lots of insects. What studies is George Monbiot using and where do they come from? His does not seem to be the reality that exists on the Canadian prairies.

George Monbiot has refused to support regenerative agriculture, and instead chooses to promote veganism. He isn't trustworthy when it comes to food or agriculture. Many regen ag proponents have tried to educate him, but he's in too deep with his anti-animal narrative now.

The Audubon Society partners with regenerative ranchers for a reason, the birds come back, as do the bees, butterflies, insects and lots of other wildlife. It's truly transformative, and the only viable future we have on this planet. We need far more people understanding the mechanisms of regen ag.

Come on Hugh!

If you need 16x the land to produce the same protein from meat as from plants, the math is pretty easy. Switching to plant-based diets would free up huge amounts of land. There may be some areas where regenerative agriculture can reasonably include animals, and this is no argument for bad practices growing plants, but overall, animal agriculture must be radically reduced.

The math is actually not so easy because cattle don't have exlusive use of the land the way a monoculture basically does. As I have been trying to say, along with the cattle there are thousands of other organisms living there. Pastures are teeming with wildlife. I wish more people would actually get out on the land and see what is happening, rather than just read a few curated studies. Maybe it is different where you live, but this is what I see.

And what are you going to do with all these huge amounts of land after you free it up?

I think there is something to what you say. While I'm for less meat in our diets....for many reasons, including better health outcomes, I want more distinctions made between sustainable grass fed beef (switching to bison makes sense to me as well....the stats are in on how native ungulates are more sustainable) and large scale agri-business feedlots. Banning the use of food cattle aren't meant to eat....making our beef production 90% grass fed, would go a long way to preserving our prairie and improving the quality of the beef we eat.

Of course, getting rid of industrial agriculture entirely might also make sense. Small family owned mixed farms are likely best for the planet. I grew up on one and I seem to remember we wasted next to nothing. We had pigs, chickens, turkeys........and a small herd of cattle pastured on our hills......and sometimes, in the community pasture. That system preserved prairie, as the Savory research has shown it does....and I guess it sequestored carbon as well.....though we knew nothing of that in my youth.

Finally.......the idea that we'll get rid of animal husbandry and go full tilt into the Frankenfood of the usual corporate suspects.....white suited 'scientist' eager to take plant matter and 'engineer' it into meat.....is the kind of madness I suppose we get in a climate constrained world. The silver bullet solutions may be all we have the mental capacity to imagine!!

Everyone knows what the other guy should give up, so they can continue to indulge in jet set vacations....and eat plant based meat that tastes almost as good, as the industrial animal product we're used to consuming. These young folk don't realize that the chicken on the menu tastes nothing like my mom's birds....or that the steak comes from animals killed too soon, because their genetically modified corn diet sickens them by their second year.

Our steers lived for two years before they were ready for market. We fed them chop...chopped oats, for a few weeks to 'finish' them, and then they went to market. They were a small cash crop on a prairie farm mostly given over to monoculture.

And as you mention.....'monoculture' is everywhere in the production of the annual pea crop that most often goes into frankenmeat. So I think if you don't want to eat meat...don't eat meat, but for the love of this diverse planet, don't imagine you can eliminate meat and have it too. That's just consuming another nail in this earth's coffin.

We should be focusing on getting rid of lobbyists...extinct them. And ban the fanatics of the single solution from our Cop out conferences. The all or nothing mentality is part of what's killing biodiversity now.

That said....less meat in general is fine, so long as its accompanied by no laboratory engineering of some synthetic product that benefits big Ag and Corporate food chains, and makes consumers feel virtuous because they are 'eating their way to a sustainable planet'.
It's delusional...unless connected to all the ways we produce food....and all the ways in which we have to do it better.......for all of us, and not just the entitled first world and its industrial alternative to real farmers and ranchers.

I think part of the problem with industrial animal farming is that the monoculture crop farming you are criticizing is mainly used to supply food to the animals. There are some good animal practices, with grazing in specific areas etc that is more beneficial for biodiversity, but those practices would not produce enough animals to meet the demand of today's markets. Something has to change. Cattle farming in general must change and for some that will be using the land differently.

So, 200 years ago, the plains of North America had 65 million bison roaming them. At up to 2500lb for the males, over 1800 for the females, they're somewhat-larger than commercial beef. Also, about 80% of them were adults - once you got past a certain size, you were wolf-proof and had a 20-year lifespan. Commercial cows are literally half-grown, on average: we kill them as soon as full-grown, at 2 years.

So, I've always figured that the 65 million were about as many tons of meat on the hoof as the 110 million steers in the "American National Herd" as the USDA puts it.

Was Buffalo Bill some kind of climate activist, to shoot them all?

I'm going to guess that, unlike cattle herds confined to one area, bison were constantly on the move over a much larger territory, with a smaller water and land footprint. Ergo, far less intensive use of the land and less water pollution. Also part of the ecosystem and a source of sustenance for other wildlife.

Hugh Ryder above complains about crop farming: specifically, monocultures, cultivation, and the use of pesticides and fertilizer. Many crops are grown to feed livestock. Hence, deforestation in the Amazon, etc..

Livestock replaced wild herbivores. Cattle farmers also removed most of our big predators from the landscape: wolves, bear, cougars, etc. With huge ecological implications.

"Scientists estimate that at the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago, H. sapiens comprised less than 1% of the total weight of mammals on the planet. Since then, humans have grown to represent 35% of a much larger total biomass; toss in domestic pets and livestock, and human domination of the world's mammalian biomass rises to 98.5%!" (William E. Rees. The Tyee)

Destroying the buffalo was a way of 'clearing the plains'......for the small farmers escaping poverty in Europe and starting a new,more prosperous life in a country and climate they only poorly understood. Three generations on our plains and in many parts of the country there are more folks in the cemetary than in the towns.
We're native prairie settlers and we drive those plains....and are sickened by what's left.....and what the future likely holds for such dryland cropping.

In some ways, it might be better to let the land revert to prairie, replant that native fescue, and bring back the buffalo. Instead we'll spend the next few decades fighting about meat....and ignoring the drawbacks of monoculture........on vast stretches already water poor.

And oh yes....if the UCP can find their feet in Alberta.....we'll open pit coal mine, mountain top removal coal mine (out of sight of the highways mind you)...and hog all that water Saskatchewan also relies on, to continue the coal industry. With the help of Australian fascists....and a royalty of 1%.

It was starving the native population Bill was into..........going forward, we'll see if anything has changed.

The world is faced with moral decisions that will lead to our survival in a habitable world or ignoring the very obvious answers resulting in our demise. It is absolutely well documented that animal agriculture is second only to oil emissions . Both protected by lobbyists that defend their right to market their destructive, harmful to human life, commodities. We know meat , in our highly gluttinous consumption /unnecessary mass production in our marketplace is causing severe chronic health problems, is a major environmental hazard to air, water, land contamination, and is an extremely cruel business to 60 billion animals around the globe yearly. We keep batting around the rights of animal ag and oil industries that are literally killing us, Where is our common sense? WE all know the answer to both of these environmental disasters and it is to transition off oil and gas and stop the mass torchurous, exploiting production of animals. We need to ignore the unethical corporate lobbyists whose bottom line will always be profit and more excuses for government subsidies in record profit annual profits while providing products that are scientifically proven to be destroying our planet . COMMODITIES causing human deaths everyday resulting from the climate crisis they have created. Animal agriculture is not even a viable industry and relies on billions in yearly subsidy by our governments. This quagmire is a human moral conflict and until we all stand up and refuse to be lied to and conned by deceitful marketing and corporate unethical business practices, all based on GREED , we are leaving our children and grandchildren in an inhabitable world. We must stop the bulkshit dialogue and do what we know is right and demand transition now and stop consuming so much meat, dairy. The answers are right in our face...open our eyes and quit the haggling back and forth, blaming others and not taking responsibility for our actions , we must insist on the right moral choices /answers available and before us. We cannot keep discussing the same issues over and over when we know the answers. DOING THE SAME THING AND EXPECTING DIFFERENT OUTCOMES IS INSANIETY, is that where mankind is at?. Incaple of doing what is right?