Animal agriculture is well-known as one of the most harmful offenders regarding greenhouse gas emissions, but a new report claims that the UN Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) has underestimated the industry’s damages. A new report from The Climate Healers reported that animal agriculture is responsible for at least 87 percent of greenhouse emissions. The report – written by Dr. Sailesh Rao – was published in The Journal of Ecological Society, presenting a counterpoint to the currently accepted numbers.

The report critiques the FAO’s statistics around animal agriculture’s environmental impact. The study specifically focuses on the environmental damages that arise from livestock farming. The FAO claims that animal agriculture only contributes 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, starkly different than the 87 percent that Rao’s paper proposes.

Deforestation Caused By Animal Agriculture Contributes to Climate Change

The Climate Healers says that the FAO’s prior studies failed to consider the negative impact on forests. Animal agriculture and factory livestock take a huge toll on forest ecosystems, and the land usage itself contributes to the dangers surrounding greenhouse emissions. The new report situates itself around including the impacts of deforestation and how that impacts general climate change and CO2 levels. The report goes as far as saying that global warming will “rapidly accelerate” animal agriculture's negative impacts, which continue to be ignored, or even continue to be underestimated.

“When people think of animal agriculture and climate change, they’ve been encouraged to consider it only from the perspective of the methane produced by the animals themselves,” Climate Healers said to Plant Based News. “This is a significant issue, as animal agriculture accounts for at least 37 percent of the methane released annually according to FAO. However, it is only one of the negative impacts of animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of desertification, habitat destruction, wildlife extinction, and ocean dead zone… All of which degrade the climate. This paper affords a crucial wake-up call to governments, non-profits, private industry, and the media. The negative impact of animal agriculture is ignored at our own peril.”

The paper warns that the negative impacts may be much deeper than the public understand, and to properly combat climate change, Climate Healers hopes to consider the full range of damages that emerge from animal agriculture and factory farming. The shocking number sharply contrasts the FAO’s current claims, leaving questions about just how damaging conventional food systems are for the planet.