environment food sustainability

The other population crisis

“The biggest population crisis is not the growth in human numbers, but the growth in livestock numbers.”

George Monbiot

That’s a line that jumped out at me from Monbiot’s recent book Regenesis. I’ve written about the dominance of livestock before, but I hadn’t thought about it in those terms.

The human population, he points out, is currently growing by 1.05% a year and has been slowing for a while. The population of our animals is growing at 2.4% a year and has been rising. There are already a billion cows, and pigs are likely to reach a billion before much longer. Already 62% of the weight of all the animals on earth is farmed animals. Add the human population to that, and wild mammals only add up to 4%. It’s no exaggeration to say that life on the planet has been restructured around the animals we like to eat. Survival of the tasty.

This farmed animal population has an enormous impact on the climate. It needs to be curbed, and the only way to do that is to reduce consumption of meat and dairy.


  1. Hi Jeremy, I made this point to a promoter of mob grazing and they claimed that the number/weight of animals has not changed as domestic numbers have replaced wild e.g. he claimed there used to be as many bison roaming wild in the US as there are cattle now. So he argued that the solution was to ensure domesticated animals has the same env impact as wild using mob grazing… What do you think? I am always amazed how tribal this argument is with many accusing Monbiot of being anti-livestock – not sure what that means! cheers Henry

  2. Monbiot has a lot to say about this, and it’s interesting. It seems to me that although his research is extremely careful and compelling, he might not have the last word on free-range livestock. I wonder if anyone else has come to the same conclusions he has about free-range chicken husbandry, for example. But you should read Regenesis and see for yourself!

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