The effects of animal agriculture on the environment and climate are vast: It is a leading cause of deforestation and is responsible for between 11.1 and 19.6 percent of global emissions. It’s more important than ever to report on the connection between meat consumption and the climate crisis. Yet the public isn’t getting the message — 40 percent of respondents to a recent Newsweek poll said they believe eating less meat would not reduce climate emissions.
Just how often does climate media mention animal agriculture?
In a data analysis of climate media coverage published May 31, the two organizations reviewed the 100 most recent climate articles (as of September 2022) published by 10 national outlets, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Out of 1,000 articles, just 7 percent mention animal agriculture and, within that coverage, much of the reporting covers climate impacts on livestock rather than how meat production is a source of greenhouse gas emissions.
This makes animal agriculture one of the least-discussed causes of climate change in the media. In contrast, mining, manufacturing and energy production were mentioned in 68 percent of articles, with fossil fuels at 53 percent.
Read the full report here: Animal Agriculture Is The Missing Piece In Climate Change Media Coverage
The report also includes a qualitative review, highlighting missed opportunities to show readers the connection between what we eat and climate pollution. For example, the report points to stories that reported on how drought conditions during the summer of 2022 endangered livestock populations, forcing farmers to sell animals for slaughter when temperatures made it impossible to keep them cool and hydrated. These stories missed an opportunity to inform readers of how their dietary choices contribute to those climate emissions. Beef consumption, for example, is a leading driver of food sector emissions.
“The cattle industry alone accounts for over 60 percent of animal agriculture emissions, yet only 30 percent of the articles that brought up animal agriculture mentioned the cattle industry. Our research shows that there is a major disparity between the amount of emissions caused by animal agriculture and how much media coverage this industry gets when climate change is the topic of discussion. We see that this is also the case with animal agriculture subsectors like the cattle industry, which receives half the coverage it should,”said Coni Arévalo, research associate at Faunalytics.
The study also highlights examples of stories that cover food systems emissions more accurately. For instance, the Los Angeles Times mentioned animal agriculture in 14 percent of articles, higher than all other analyzed news outlets. Additionally, the Los Angeles Times, Reuters, and CNN are highlighted in the report as media that took opportunities to discuss the impact of diet on climate change in their articles that did bring up animal agriculture.
“The media holds incredible influence over how we live our lives and the choices we make. We’re missing a huge piece of the story by continuing to ignore the role of industrial animal agriculture. With the release of this report, we hope to build a network of journalists and publications who want to fill this gap in coverage, and arm readers with the facts,” said Ana Bradley, executive director of Sentient Media.
The report acknowledges that climate journalists already face an uphill challenge in their work — it’s tough enough to get resources for any climate coverage in newsrooms let alone the intersection of climate and food.
In order to boost and improve media coverage of this important cause of climate emissions, Sentient Media hosted a virtual event entitled Making the Climate Connection to discuss the findings with climate journalists and researchers. We also published a reporting toolkit for journalists, and have launched a new Food and Farming Media Network hub for reporters to collaborate and share resources.
Sentient Media editorial team.