Climate change, public health, and animal welfare: towards a One Health approach to reducing animal agriculture’s climate footprint

Cleo Verkuijl*, Jessie Smit, Jonathan Michael Halsey Green, Rebecca Nordquist, Jeff Sebo, Matthew Hayek, Maria José Hötzel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animal agriculture contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—an estimated 12%-20% of total anthropogenic emissions. This has led both governmental and private actors to propose various ways to mitigate those climate impacts. This paper applies a One Health lens to the issue, arguing that the choice of solutions should not only consider the potential to reduce GHG emissions—which is not always a given—but also the implications for public health and animal welfare. With this perspective, we examine the potential public health and animal welfare impacts of three types of strategies that are often proposed: (1) “sustainable intensification” methods, aimed at maintaining or increasing production while limiting emissions and avoiding further land conversion; (2) “species shift” approaches, which focus on changing diets to consume meat from animals produced with lower GHG emissions instead of that of animals associated with higher emissions; and (3) “systemic dietary change” approaches that promote shifts towards whole plant-based foods or novel alternatives to conventional animal products. We discuss how some approaches—particularly those associated with sustainable intensification and species shift—could introduce new and significant risks to public health and animal welfare. Promoting systemic dietary change helps to overcome some of these challenges, but requires careful attention to equity to ensure that vulnerable populations still have access to the nutrients they need. We end with recommendations for a more holistic approach to reducing emissions from farmed animals that can help avoid trade-offs and increase synergies with other societal goals.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalFrontiers in Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 Verkuijl, Smit, Green, Nordquist, Sebo, Hayek and Hötzel.

Cite this