Merino sheep in a field in Germany

FOUR PAWS at UN Climate Meeting: Factory Farming at the Root of Soil Degradation

Systemic change needed: Factory farming pollutes soils and water, threatening food security and our planet


Vienna, 13 June 2024 – During the current UN Climate Meetings in Bonn which are setting the ground for the upcoming COP 29 in November, the global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS is advocating for a transition to sustainable extensive farming systems to protect the climate and reach the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement. Intensive animal farming is responsible for one-sixth of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, causes tremendous animal suffering and pollutes land and water. Land degradation also threatens food security, costing USD 85.5 trillion every year, according to calculations by the World Bank. To get to the root of the problem, FOUR PAWS advocates for a transition to sustainable extensive animal farming and a drastic reduction in the number of farmed animals. FOUR PAWS urges negotiators to include these holistic, low-input farming practices in the agenda.  

“Factory farming is pushing our planet to the brink. It is a key driver of our current climate, environmental and biodiversity crises. The excessive and badly managed waste and need for animal feed reliant on artificial fertilisers is polluting the environment, destroying biodiversity and causing deforestation. We need to put animal welfare at the heart of how we farm, if we want to tackle the climate crisis,” 

Miguel Angel Zhan Dai, Policy Officer at FOUR PAWS

A drastic reduction of farmed animals is needed. Animal farming causes two-thirds of all agricultural emissions. In the EU, animal factory farming is responsible for 80% of soil acidification and causes up to 47% of nitrogen pollution to coastal waters. Apart from poorly managed manure, the excessive need for feed is also harming the environment. The high demand creates a dependency on artificial fertilisers, which results in further soil degradation and biodiversity loss.

Animal welfare for sustaining our soils and the climate

As this year all three COPs under the Rio Conventions are taking place, FOUR PAWS calls on policymakers to phase-out the subsidies for harmful animal farming practices and to assess agricultural systems not only on their emissions but also on other negative consequences, such as land degradation and biodiversity loss.

“Soil health and animal welfare are closely connected. By providing excellent animal welfare conditions on farms, such as regular outdoor access for animals on pastures, we can protect the environment and improve the lives of billions of animals,” explains Miguel Angel Zhan Dai.

Grazing animals and grasslands have coevolved for millions of years, establishing a beneficial relation for both. While animals get the nutrients from natural grasslands, a well-balanced use of animal manure provides nutrients for the plants to grow. This reduces both the need for additional artificial fertilisers and for importing processed food for animals. Linking the number of farmed animals to the availability and condition of land would ensure that grazing has a positive effect on grasslands.

For more information on how sustainable soils provide an animal welfare solution for the environment and climate, take a look at this factsheet.

Sustaining our Soils:

Sustaining our Soils:

An animal welfare solution for the environment and the climate

About the June UN Climate Meetings: leading up to the climate COPs (Convention of the Parties), the subsidiary bodies of implementation of the UNFCCC meet each June in Bonn, Germany. This conference convenes parties and non-state actors to advance negotiations under the Convention and the Paris Agreement, taking stock of progress made and setting new targets.

Extensive farming system is a low-input production system mostly relying on natural or seminatural grasslands. In extensive farming animals have regular outdoor access.

Intensive animal farming or factory farming is an industrial method of raising farmed animals intended to maximise production at minimal cost. The animals in these systems regularly suffer from most cruel practices and their basic needs are not met. On factory farms, animals are confined in small spaces and the animals are kept indoors and/or in cages for their entire life, often in unhygienic conditions.


Vera Mair PR International Officer

Vera Mair 

PR International Officer

+43 (0) 664 409 05 16

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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