Motion Comes Amid Record Wildfires Caused by the Animal Agriculture Industry
New York City Hall — City Council Members Costa Constantinides and Justin Brannan, in partnership with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, today demanded the City of New York cease ties with any businesses linked to the horrific Amazon wildfires, which have been driven by animal agriculture.
A resolution officially making the call, co-sponsored by the elected officials, was introduced simultaneously with a motion by the Los Angeles City Council to condemn the destruction of rainforests around the globe. Loss of the Amazon’s vital resources means a blow to the first line of defense against climate change and requires cities to take local action against this global crisis. Rallies were held in both New York City and Los Angeles to call for residents and governments to change behaviors and policies that contribute to this existential threat.
“Climate change is a challenge to our future that isn’t going away. That shouldn’t preclude us, however, from taking a bold stance against deforestation, which only accelerates the effects of this man-made phenomenon,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection. “Just as the loss of trees in the Amazon can exacerbate climate change in New York City or Los Angeles, we can make real change by taking a first stance against businesses whose practices have sparked these wildfires.”
“We are facing a climate emergency, and we can’t continue business as usual while the planet burns. Today, we urge both city agencies and local businesses to cut ties with any company linked to the multinational corporations responsible for the fires still raging throughout the Amazon Rainforest. Each individual consumer choice, each corporate decision, and each specific legislative policy must be geared toward making our planet more sustainable and habitable for generations to come. But we can only achieve this together. What we eat matters. Who we do business with matters. This resolution is a first step in opening a broader conversation about how we overcome one of the most significant challenges humanity has ever faced,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.
“Amazon fires and deforestation give new meaning to the phrase ‘Meat is Murder,’” said Council Member Justin Brannan. “In this case, the victim is also our planet. New York City must be a leader and divest from this organized destruction of our environment for short-term profit. It’s time to get real about the destructive effects animal agriculture and meat production have on our planet.”
“New York City is one of the most progressive cities in the world; we need to lead by example at every turn to push the rest of the world to fight climate change,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “By calling on our City to divest from agricultural industries that accelerate global warming by hurting the Amazon, we are sending a message to the world that New York City is serious about fighting climate change and we are ready to put our money where our mouth is. Thank you to Council Members Constantinides and Brannan and to Borough President Adams for leading the way on this.”
“Today, the two largest cities call for the other 35,000 cities in the United States to join us in our boycott of Brazil and the reckless corporations profiting from deforestation and murder,” said Los Angeles City Council Member Paul Koretz, who introduced a similar motion with colleague David Ryu. “Let’s see if, by year’s end, our entire country of cities can join us and show the Brazilian government how much we love, honor, and respect the Amazon Rainforest and its Indigenous Peoples.”
An uptick in meat demands has spurred South American cattle ranchers to clear more of the Amazon for grazing. Forest fires throughout the Amazon have jumped 80% since last year as a result, putting vital resources and lives at risk. The Brazilian National Institute for Space Research recorded 41,000 fire locations throughout the country as a result of this clearing. The Amazon’s trees play a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide emissions; without them, those emissions are left to exacerbate climate change. This reflects a broader increase in deforestation, which jumped 71% from 1990 to 2005, largely because of increased pasture needs.
Matters stand to only worsen as the demand for meat and other animal products skyrockets. That’s especially true regarding beef demand, which increases 5% each year, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. This drains the planet’s limited resources as it takes an average 300 square feet of land and more than 200 gallons of water to create a single pound of beef. Production, transportation, and storage of meat only worsen the effects of climate change as more emissions are pumped into the air and more land is cleared for both animal grazing and the growing of crops for animal feed.
The resolution put before the City Council today calls on New York City agencies and businesses to “divest from agricultural industries that accelerate global warming.” Leaders who spoke at Thursday’s rally also called on New Yorkers to take a stance by reducing how much meat, dairy, and eggs they consume. Our current diets stand to drive up the global temperature higher than the Paris Climate Agreement targets, largely because they include high levels of animal products, according to a 2014 study.
Environmental and sustainability advocates in the New York City area cheered the resolution as a bold step in combating deforestation.
“This resolution proves that we don’t need to wait helplessly for national governments to do the right thing to end deforestation,” said Etelle Higonnet, Senior Campaign Director, Mighty Earth. “Even if President Trump and global agribusinesses like JBS and Cargill won’t do their part to stop the Amazon fires, local actors like New York City and Los Angeles are providing a shining example of how to step up. We need every city, state, university, and company to stand and be counted, before it’s too late. Our planet is on fire.”
“The time to divest from polluting industries like factory farming that threaten the planet is now,” said Stephanie Feldstein, Director, Center for Biological Diversity’s Population and Sustainability Program. “This year’s catastrophic fires in the Amazon offer a horrifying example of how meat and dairy production is devastating biodiversity and our climate. This resolution is a bold way for New York to take the lead in addressing the catastrophic effects of animal agriculture.”
“The deforestation crisis in the Amazon may seem far away and beyond our control,” said Chloë Waterman, Program Manager, Friends of the Earth. “But New York City government and businesses can leverage their purchasing power to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and the environment. By shifting away from factory farmed animal products that are driving deforestation, and toward sustainably produced plant-based foods, New York City can improve the health of people and the planet. Friends of the Earth applauds Brooklyn Borough President Adams and Council Members Constantinides and Brannan for introducing this resolution encouraging divestment from agricultural industries that are accelerating climate chaos.”
“We applaud the Resolution and the potential for New York City to play a leading role not just in the U.S., but around the world, in promoting climate-compatible, equitable food systems and modes of agriculture,” said Mia MacDonald, Executive Director, Brighter Green, a Brooklyn-based public policy action tank. “Our research and that of our colleagues in Africa, Asia, and Latin America demonstrates that we have no time to waste in supporting food systems that don’t fuel global warming, destroy or fragment the world’s precious natural forests and communities that depend on them, or exploit and put at risk billions of animals, domesticated and wild. The science is clear: we will not arrest the climate crisis or the biodiversity crisis without addressing the destruction caused by unsustainable ways of producing and consuming food. Such practices, like industrial animal agriculture, need to change drastically, and having major cities remove investment from them is an important signal of the urgency of the situation, and the need for corporations and governments to exercise bold leadership.”
“Industrial animal agriculture does untold amounts of damage to the environment,” said Em Heppler, Director of Operations, Pivot Food Investment. “The New York City Council is making history by introducing a resolution to divest from the factory farming industry because of its hand in deforestation and environmental destruction.”
“What we eat and how it’s produced impacts population health, animal welfare, and the health of our planet. Production practices like agricultural deforestation are short-sighted and cause immense environmental damage,” said Craig Willingham, Deputy Director, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute. “I applaud BP Adams and Council Member Constantinides for using this resolution to take a stand on this issue. Public dollars should support a healthier, more sustainable food system, not one that is destructive.”
“Heartfelt thanks to Brooklyn Borough President Adams and Council Member Constantinides for introducing this Resolution,” said Jeff Sebo, Director, New York University’s Animal Studies M.A. Program. “Industrial animal agriculture is a leading cause of animal suffering, land use, water use, energy use, waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. We all need to work together to reduce support for this industry and increase support for plant-based alternatives. This Resolution, in calling for public and private divestment from agricultural industries that accelerate deforestation and climate change, is an important step on the path toward shared accountability and effective action.”
“This Resolution can’t happen soon enough,” said Ros Bennett, Communications Chair, Climate Reality Project NYC Chapter. “We cannot ignore the vast amount of emissions that are the result of big agriculture. We must cultivate sustainable farming practices alongside a just transition to renewable energy in order to meet our emission goals. All of our futures depend on it.”
“From 1892, the Sierra Club has worked to preserve the environment. Since then, our work has become increasingly urgent,” said Carl Arnold, Chair, Sierra Club NYC Group; Co-chair, national Sierra Club Food & Agriculture Team. “The US chemical/industrial food production system is already unsustainable for many reasons. One is that imports of beef and soy from Brazil enable and encourage further deforestation of the Amazon. If this continues, a major source of world oxygen will be compromised. This proposed bill, If passed, will set a precedent for other major US cities to divest from the agricultural industries that are exacerbating global warming and climate chaos.”
“New York City shouldn’t be investing in companies that increase global warming and deforestation. This isn’t only about fossil fuels. It’s also about meat production. We should divest from companies that are despoiling our environment,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried.
“Halting deforestation of the world’s most vital natural biomes is critical to mitigating climate change impacts,” said Maria Lettini, Executive Director, FAIRR Initiative. “We cannot stay within a 2-degree global limit without curbing land-use change – particularly with respect to soy and cattle production. The growing demand for intensively farmed animal products is the number one contributor to Brazilian deforestation. Manufacturers, retailers and consumers are an influential lever of change and play an important role in shifting market practices and creating more resilient supply chains.”