Leaders of the world must lead

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Today is World Wildlife Conservation Day, launched just a few years ago to raise awareness of illegal wildlife trafficking. I’ve worked to protect nature since I was a young boy, particularly to protect birds, and I applaud everyone doing their bit around the world today.

Credit: Tukasz Kalinowski East News

I’m writing this blog after listening to Sir David Attenborough’s address at the United Nations (UN) in Poland, where he’s warned world leaders that, without action on climate change, the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon. 

“Leaders of the world you must lead” implored Sir David, “The continuation of our civilisations and much of the natural world is in your hands.”

For me we need leadership from governments and business to tackle  the world’s ever-increasing appetite for factory farmed meat, dairy and eggs with its devastating impacts on the natural world on which we depend.

Without preventative action industrial meat and dairy industries are on track to surpass the fossil fuel industry as the world’s biggest contributors to climate change. The following few facts alone outline how urgent it is for us to rethink our broken food systems:

  • The global livestock industry is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Business as usual’ (BAU) on food/farming alone will take us to 2 degrees by 2050.
  • Two-thirds of wildlife loss is driven by food production.
  • Nearly half the world’s useable land surface is used for agriculture.
  • Four-fifths of farmland globally is dedicated to producing meat and milk which provide little more than a quarter of humanity’s protein supply. The majority of humanity’s protein is provided by plants, using much less land and other precious resources.
  • An extra 45 billion more farm animals are expected per year by 2050.


The United Nations is, as Sir David points out, a unique platform for action. Last year, in my speech at the conference Compassion in World Farming organised together with WWF and other partners, I called for a new UN global agreement on food and farming to help tackle not only climate change, but many of the other threats we face. We need to end factory farming and move to regenerative agriculture.

I will be closely following the discussions in Poland this week together with Compassion’s Polish office.

In the meantime, let’s all try to change our attitude to protein by eating more plants and let’s support farmers doing the right thing – keeping pasture-fed, free-range or organic animals.

Thanks also to the UN for the new ActNow Chatbot aimed at inspiring individual action against climate change, including eating less meat.


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