The meat industry giants argued that some members in their summit group were trying “to further an ideological anti-livestock stance,” and also threatened to stage a walk out in protest.
A coalition of meat industry giants have lobbyied the UN to support global meat consumption and promote intensive livestock farming before an upcoming hi-profile summit on food sustainability.
The UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) is scheduled for 23 September in New York.
Banding itself as a transformational “people’s summit”, ensuing discussions at the conference are expected to shape global governmental policies to make agricultural systems more sustainable, and influence upcoming agreements on climate change and biodiversity around the world.
Pro-meat lobby threatens to walk out
However, documents leaked to environmental NGO Greenpeace reveal that livestock industry associations threatened to withdraw from the summit if their cluster – a working group set up to recommend policies for the summit – did not agree on a pro-meat goal.
In preparation for the summit, the sustainable livestock solutions cluster – which included a group of industry associations such as the International Meat Secretariat and International Poultry Council – prepared a draft position paper calling for the UN to support increased meat consumption worldwide.
The paper argued: “Innovative methods in livestock can also address climate change both in mitigation and adaptation […] Livestock will provide solutions also for the challenges of today.”
Around the same time, as the livestock group submitted its draft paper, 11 new members were added to the cluster. They included environmental scientists and a farm animal welfare NGO.
This move triggered a rift between the original and new members after they clashed on a conference call meant to negotiate a new draft.
Subsequently, the pro-meat group forwarded a letter to the UN complaining that the new members were trying “to further an ideological anti-livestock stance” and threatened to pull out of the summit in protest.
The pro-meat members warned: “We cannot continue to devote time to a process in which it is clear that we are only there to lend a veneer of inclusivity while in reality some cluster leaders are pursuing their own ideological agenda.”
This comes after several studies spotlight that livestock are responsible for at least 14% of global emissions.
A new study published last week found that the production of meat is responsible for nearly 60% of global food-related greenhouse gas emissions.
‘Power dynamics in the food system‘
Hsin Huang is the secretary general international meat secretariat. He told Unearthed (the investigative branch of Greenpeace): “I find it laughable that we could be seen to be lobbying the UN FSS [Food Systems Summit]. We have been knocking hard on the door of the UN FSS since February, when we sent a letter, asking to constructively participate in writing the narrative on the role of livestock in sustainable production systems.
“Our criticism of the UN FSS is that it is not inclusive and we, the livestock sector, have been seen as the problem.”
On the other hand, Matthew Hayek, assistant professor of environmental studies at New York University, told the non-profit the UN FSS should not have given “incumbent industries a platform to deny or minimise the scientific consensus”.
Finally, the cluster presented three position papers to the summit of which only one points out the drawbacks of factory farming. It states: “A significant reduction in global consumption of meat and dairy is needed… to meet the Paris climate targets.”
Michael Fakhri, UN special rapporteur on the right to food told Unearthed: “What appears to have happened in its livestock strand is a microcosm of the tension at the heart of the food systems summit.
“Here was an opportunity to have a frank and difficult and public conversation about power dynamics in the food system, but the summit has failed to create a space to actually interrogate what the root causes of its problems are. I fear the outcomes will disappoint.”
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