Livestock's Long Shadow

Livestock's Long Shadow
Livestock's Long Shadow (book) cover.jpg
AuthorHenning Steinfeld, Pierre Gerber, Tom Wassenaar, Vincent Castel, Mauricio Rosales, Cees de Haan.
PublisherFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Publication date
Media typebook
Pages390 pp
LC ClassSF140.E25 S744 2006

Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options is a United Nations report, released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on 29 November 2006,[1] that "aims to assess the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation".[1]


Livestock's Long Shadow is an assessment of recent research, taking into account direct impacts of livestock production, along with the impacts of feed crop cultivation. The report states that the livestock sector is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to serious environmental problems. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

Senior author Henning Steinfeld stated that livestock are "one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems" and that "urgent action is required to remedy the situation."[2]

Following a life-cycle analysis approach, the report evaluates "that livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions" [3] Greenhouse gas emissions arise from feed production (e.g. chemical fertilizer production, deforestation for pasture and feed crops, cultivation of feed crops, feed transport and soil erosion), animal production (e.g. enteric fermentation and methane and nitrous oxide emissions from manure) and as a result of the transportation of animal products. Following this approach the report estimates that livestock contributes to about 9% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, but 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions. The main sources of emissions were found to be:

  • Land use and land use change: 2.5 Gigatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent; including forest and other natural vegetation replaced by pasture and feed crop in the Neotropics (CO2) and carbon release from soils such as pasture and arable land dedicated to feed production (CO2)
  • Feed Production (except carbon released from soil): 0.4 Gigatonnes CO2 equivalent, including fossil fuel used in manufacturing chemical fertilizer for feed crops (CO2) and chemical fertilizer application on feed crops and leguminous feed crop (N2O, NH3)
  • Animal production: 1.9 Gigatonnes CO2 equivalent, including enteric fermentation from ruminants (CH4) and on-farm fossil fuel use (CO2)
  • Manure Management: 2.2 Gigatonnes CO2 equivalent, mainly through manure storage, application and deposition (CH4, N2O, NH3)
  • Processing and international transport: 0.03 Gigatonnes CO2 equivalent


In a 2009 article in the Worldwatch Institute magazine it was claimed that the FAO report was too conservative and that livestock sector accounts for much more of global GHG emissions, at least 51%.[4][5] A 2011 response to this was published by FAO and an international coalition of scientists, discrediting the magazine article and upholding the 2006 assessment.[6][7] But this response was fully answered back in Animal Feed Science and Technology (AFST) Journal, and they reiterated their estimate while FAO scientists declined to continue the debate despite AFST Editor’s invitation.[8] In 2013 FAO publicly partnered with International Meat Secretariat and the International Dairy Federation[9] and many of the same authors of the first report published a subsequent study for the FAO, revising their estimate of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions due to livestock downward to 14.5%[10][11] without addressing any of the alleged errors pointed out in Goodland and Anhang’s report or in the ensuing peer-reviewed debate.

References to the report[edit]

The report was the main scientific source[citation needed] for the documentary Meat The Truth, narrated by Marianne Thieme (2007).[12]

It was frequently cited in the documentary Cowspiracy (2014).[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Henning Steinfeld, Pierre Gerber, Tom Wassenaar, Vincent Castel, Mauricio Rosales, Cees de Haan (2006). Livestock's long shadow (PDF) (Report). FAO. ISBN 978-92-5-105571-7. Retrieved 27 September 2019.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Livestock a major threat to environment". Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  3. ^ FAO Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department (2006). "Livestock impacts on the environment". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 28, 2015. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  4. ^ MacKay, Fiona (2009-11-16). "Looking for a Solution to Cows' Climate Problem". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  5. ^ Goodland, Robert; Anhang, Jeff (Nov–Dec 2009). "Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change were pigs, chickens and cows?" (PDF). Worldwatch Magazine. Worldwatch Institute. pp. 10–19. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Livestock and climate change: Towards credible figures". Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  7. ^ Herrero, M.; Gerber, P.; Vellinga, T.; Garnett, T.; Leip, A.; Opio, C.; Westhoek, H.J.; Thornton, P.K.; Olesen, J.; Hutchings, N.; Montgomery, H.; Soussana, J.-F.; Steinfeld, H.; McAllister, T.A. (2011). "Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right" (PDF). Animal Feed Science and Technology. 166–167: 779–782. doi:10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2011.04.083. hdl:10568/3910. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  8. ^ Goodland, Robert; Anhang, Jeff (2012). "Comment to the editor. Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right by Herrero et al". Animal Feed Science and Technology. 166–167: 779–782. doi:10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2011.04.083. hdl:10568/3910.
  9. ^ Template:Url=
  10. ^ "Tackling climate change through livestock // FAO's Animal Production and Health Division". Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  11. ^ Gerber, P.J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., Falcucci, A. & Tempio, G. (2013). Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities (PDF) (Report). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). pp. 1–139. ISBN 978-92-5-107921-8. Retrieved 3 October 2019.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. ^ Global Warming: Meat The Truth.
  13. ^ "Cowspiracy: The Facts"

External links[edit]