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Statement on Climate Change

The HSUS and HSI believe that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, posing potentially huge impacts on both the natural world and human society. 

The impacts of climate change will be profound, but most people will be better equipped to adapt to temperature changes and altered weather patterns than plants and wild animals, many of whom are likely to go extinct.

In this respect, the world’s natural systems are facing a crisis of immense proportions. The HSUS and HSI are committed to encouraging the adoption of policies that will mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and better equip animals to adapt to the changes ahead—and to survive them.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that without immediate and meaningful action to reverse the warming trend, 15-37 percent of plant and animal species will be extinct by 2050.

Climate change is already adversely affecting animals around the globe: Diseases are more frequently emerging and spreading to new areas; rising air and sea temperatures are damaging critical habitats and threatening species who rely on these habitats for survival; and increasing numbers of extreme weather events are displacing or killing unprecedented numbers of farm animals, companion animals, and wildlife.

The overwhelming consensus among the world’s most reputable climate scientists is that the majority of the increase in average global temperature is due to human activities over the last century, particularly to dramatic increases in the burning of fossil fuel. The production of animals for meat, eggs, and milk is a major contributor to climate change, accounting for 18 percent of all GHG emissions according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization—a share that exceeds the GHG emissions of the world’s entire transportation sector.

Deforestation, much of which is the result of feedcrop cultivation for and the grazing of farm animals, is another significant contributor to climate change as well as habitat loss.

The HSUS and HSI are committed to working toward policies at international, regional, and domestic levels that will increase the protection of all animals from the harmful impacts of climate change.

To achieve this goal, the HSUS and HSI recommend the following reforms be pursued regarding climate change, all of which bear on our ongoing programmatic work and which have a direct bearing on the human relationship with animals: 1) Animal Agriculture; 2) Wildlife Habitat and Trade; and 3) Companion Animals.

Animal agriculture

The annual production of more than 11 billion animals in the United States and more than 70 billion worldwide for meat, eggs, and milk is simply not sustainable. The “Three R’s” approach advanced by The HSUS and HSI encourages the refinement of production methods, the reduction of consumption, and the replacement of animal products with non-animal alternatives. For example, if every U.S. citizen simply reduced his or her meat consumption by 10 percent, it would not only reduce domestic GHG emissions, but would also save the lives of approximately 1 billion animals per year.

The HSUS and HSI will seek to educate and engage the public and encourage policies aimed at accomplishing the following goals:

Ensuring that consumers are aware of the climate change mitigation benefits of reducing meat, egg, and dairy consumption and/or replacing animal-based products with plant-based foods, as well as other changes they can make in their consumption habits to reduce their contribution to climate change.

Imposing limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the animal agriculture sector, including industrialized production facilities, transport, fertilizer manufacturing, and other inputs, that should be 1) included in international, regional, and domestic climate change treaties, agreements, legislation, and regulations; 2) strictly regulated; and 3) enforced.

Limiting the use of animal manure, litter, and fat in the production of bio-energy in order to prevent industries from profiting from the massive waste and toxic pollution they create.

Promoting small-scale, extensive, and/or pasture-based animal production systems instead of large-scale, industrialized animal agriculture production facilities.

Wildlife habitat and trade

The destruction of wildlife habitat in many parts of the world will certainly exacerbate the negative impacts of climate change. In order to reduce these impacts, it is important to preserve as much wild habitat as possible in the years ahead. The HSUS, HSI, and Wildlife Land Trust are committed to the preservation of wild places either in the form of parks or other types of protected areas, the benefits of which will accrue to both wildlife and people.

In pursuit of this goal, we will work toward the following goals:

Enacting legislation that protects habitat and restricts development in areas that are important to species protection and the provision of ecological services to people.

Promoting and expanding conservation easements through the Wildlife Land Trust.

Ensuring that any new international climate change agreements include both developed and developing countries.

Ensuring that signatories to international climate change agreements are bound to take proactive measures to protect the following systems from harm caused by climate change: forests, wetlands, grasslands, tundra, fragile island ecosystems, oceans, and the wildlife inhabiting them.

Lowering tariffs on environmentally friendly goods and services that also promote animal welfare and protection.

Companion animals

As people are displaced through natural disasters, marked shifts in water supply and availability, rising sea levels, increasing surface temperatures, and other factors related to climate change, their household companion and service animals will be affected as well. Keeping people and pets together during times of crisis will not only prevent animals from becoming lost, abandoned, or euthanized, but will also provide emotional comfort to people when they are facing difficult challenges.

The HSUS and HSI will work toward the following goals:

Continue to pass legislation at the international, federal, state, and local levels requiring that emergency planning and evacuation programs include animals.

Work with state and local responding agencies to develop disaster plans that include animals.

Train disaster responders and residents regarding how best to protect and care for their companion animals in times of emergencies.

Approved by the Board of Directors on May 26, 2009

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