Food production causes the biggest damage to the natural world, and a shift to plant-based diets is necessary to stop the destruction, a report says.
According to the study by the Chatham House think tank and supported by UN, farming is the main threat to biodiversity and 86% of the 28,000 species that are at risk of extinction.
The report says the world had lost half its natural ecosystems and the average population size of wild animals had fallen by 68% since 1970. The number of farmed animals now accounts for 60% of all mammals by weight, humans up 36% and animals just 4%.
Cheap food production, where low costs drive bigger demand for food and more waste, animal farming and use of polluting fertilisers and pesticides - through all that we are killing our planet.
One of the best solution to stop the destruction is a shift to plant-based diets while stopping livestock farming.
More than 80% of global farmland is used for animals but provides only 18% of overall calories eaten. The growing trend of meat consumption requires more land and causes further damage wildlife.
If more people move to plant-based food lifestyle more lands will be free up to restore native ecosystems to increase biodiversity.
The report says that fixing the global food system would also help the climate crisis. The food production causes about 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, with more than half from from animal farming.
Switching into more plant-based diet would also help improve the health issues that over 3 billion people suffer and lower the costs of healthcare around the world.
“Politicians are still saying ‘my job is to make food cheaper for you’, no matter how toxic it is from a planetary or human health perspective,” said Professor Tim Benton, at Chatham House. “We must stop arguing that we have to subsidise the food system in the name of the poor and instead deal with the poor by bringing them out of poverty.”
The report says “the convergence of global food consumption around predominantly plant-based diets is the most crucial element.”
As an example it shows that a switch from beef to beans in the US population would free up lands equivalent to 42% of US cropland.
Turning pasture lands back to the native forest would store 72 billion tonnes of carbon which is an equivalent to seven years of global emissions from fossil fuels.
Philip Lymbery, at Compassion in World Farming, said: “The future of farming must be nature-friendly and regenerative, and our diets must become more plant-based, healthy and sustainable. Without ending factory farming, we are in danger of having no future at all.”