Former officials claim censorship and sabotage hindered efforts to address methane emissions from livestock at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Former officials from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have come forward with allegations of censorship, sabotage, and victimization after they attempted to address the significant contribution of methane emissions from livestock to global heating. These officials, who worked within the FAO’s farming wing, claim that pressure from farm-friendly funding states and attempts by FAO leadership to muzzle their work hindered their efforts to raise awareness about the ecological impact of the meat and dairy industry. The allegations date back to the publication of the landmark report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” in 2006, which attributed 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions to livestock, primarily cattle. This report shocked the industry and led to an internal clampdown within the FAO, according to the officials.
Allegations of Censorship and Suppression
The former officials allege that between 2006 and 2019, FAO management made numerous attempts to suppress investigations into the connection between cattle and climate change. They claim that top officials rewrote and diluted key passages in a report on the topic, buried another critical paper on big agriculture, excluded critical officials from meetings and summits, and briefed against their work. The officials also state that pressure from farm-friendly funding states influenced the FAO’s actions and led to censorship and editorial interference.
Concerns Over FAO’s Estimates
Scientists have expressed concerns about the FAO’s estimates of livestock’s overall contribution to emissions, which have been revised downwards over the years. The 2006 report estimated livestock’s contribution at 18%, but subsequent reports have lowered this figure to 14.5% and currently to about 11.2% based on the new “Gleam 3.0” model. However, other studies suggest that the figure should be higher, with one recent study indicating that animal products account for 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Critics argue that the FAO’s use of modeling, rather than verifiable monitoring data, may underestimate methane emissions from livestock by up to 90% in certain countries.
FAO Responds to Allegations
Anne Mottet, the FAO’s livestock development officer, denies any pressure from the meat and dairy industry and attributes the changing figures to improved methodologies and access to better data. She emphasizes that livestock is part of the FAO’s strategy on climate change and that they work with governments, farmers, and industry to address the issue. However, the former officials’ accounts of a culture discouraging research on the connection between livestock and climate change raise questions about the FAO’s commitment to addressing this issue.
Former officials at the FAO have alleged censorship, sabotage, and victimization after they attempted to address the significant contribution of methane emissions from livestock to global heating. The officials claim that pressure from farm-friendly funding states and attempts by FAO leadership to muzzle their work hindered their efforts to raise awareness about the ecological impact of the meat and dairy industry. Concerns have also been raised about the FAO’s estimates of livestock’s contribution to emissions, with some scientists arguing that the figures are underestimated. These allegations and concerns highlight the need for transparency and independent research to accurately assess the environmental impact of livestock and develop effective strategies to mitigate climate change.