It’s Time for Environmentalists to Care More About Animals!

Beef has made a lot of headlines over the past year. First slaughterhouses really struggled during the early days of COVID — they had shutdowns, slaughtered massive numbers of animals, and saw terrible health outcomes for their workers. More recently, supply chain and rising cost concerns, ransomware attacks, being removed from recipes and increased competition from meat alternatives have been in the news.

It might seem as though change is afoot when it comes to meat consumption. But to me, this is misleading. It’s not even the animal-related conversation that I think we should be having.It might seem as though change is afoot when it comes to meat consumption. But to me, this is misleading. It’s not even the animal-related conversation that I think we should be having.

Environmentalists should do more about animal welfare.

Given all the progress we’ve made building broad environmental coalitions and momentum on important goals, like net-zero, it seems to me that the wellbeing of animals should now be a bigger part of the environmental conversation.

More specifically, I think environmentalists should be more attentive to preventing unnecessary suffering by animals. We should do more to ensure that wild and captive animals experience a good quality of life and a humane death. Even if the environmentalist movement is not ready to make animal welfare a top priority, it can be much more sympathetic to the plight of animals.

Why should environmentalists focus on animal welfare?

This is a problem that I don’t think environmentalists can ignore.

So why hasn’t animal welfare been a higher priority for environmentalists?

I can think of a few possible reasons (and I’d love to hear if you have others).

All of these are fair considerations. But they shouldn’t be a complete block to action. We’ve seen obstacles like this before and we know how to overcome them.

My recommended, no-regret next steps:

As some of you may know, I am a long-time vegan, even pre-dating my TNC days. If it were up to me personally, all of this would be a much higher and more urgently felt priority. But I am a pragmatist, and I recognize the delicate balance it takes to achieve any policy outcome. We need to first build greater awareness and start with what feels manageable.

The good news is, change can happen fast. We just have to make it happen. If we start with the measured steps I laid out above and accomplish them, we can ratchet up. I suspect we will be pleasantly surprised. The country just might be more ready for this change than we think.

Former CEO of The Nature Conservancy CEO. “Nature’s Fortune” author. Family man, yogi, ice climber, vegan.