Factory farmed cows

FOUR PAWS new report on Earth Day: Meat is “eating up the planet”

Europe has surpassed the bearable meat consumption already by April


Cape Town, 08.05.2023 - In the run-up to international Earth Day on 22 April global animal welfare organisation, FOUR PAWS, published a new report to call out the worst meat consumption culprits of the planet: USA, Australia and Europe. The report´s findings suggest that the Global North, in particular, is “eating up the planet” as meat and dairy production account for one of the most significant drivers of the climate crisis.

To be in line with the planetary boundaries that ensure a safe operating space for future generations,* Europe needs to cut its average meat intake by a staggering 70 per cent, or, in other words: completely cut out meat from the menu from April on until the end of the year. Similarly, South Africa would need to cut its average meat intake by 65% or cut out meat from 8 May.

FOUR PAWS report on “Meat Exhaustion Day” urges governments and industries to implement a reduction of meat production and consumption by all means, and transition to food systems that support high animal welfare and environmental protection.

The production of factory farmed meat causes enormous environmental and human health problems and the suffering of billions of animals per year. A team of experts at FOUR PAWS therefore took the “planetary health diet” provided by the renowned EAT Lancet Commission and calculated the “Meat Exhaustion Day” - the day when the average annual consumption of meat in a country, a region or worldwide exceeds the amount of meat intake recommended by the Commission.

Best and the worst

While the global Meat Exhaustion Day falls on 26 June, a direct comparison of continents and countries reveals some significant differences. Particularly notable are the USA and Australia, where the recommended day to ditch meat from the menu already fell on 9 and 22 of March 2023 respectively. In Europe, it fell on 11 April which is only slightly better and 8 May 2023 in South Africa. To comply with the recommendations of the Planetary Health Diet, this would mean a meat reduction of 80 percent for Australia and the USA, and 70 percent for Europe. The countries with the lowest meat intake are in Northern Africa and Southeast Asia.

Herman van Bekkem, climate program lead of FOUR PAWS says: “Although we can see a slight downward trend of meat consumption in some countries in the Global North, the overall picture is still grim. Globally meat consumption is expected to grow even further although the recommendations call for a reduction of 50 per cent. To halt the unfolding climate crisis and the dramatic loss of biodiversity this trend needs to be reversed as soon as possible. Therefore we call on politicians and the food industry to take action, set clear goals and implement effective policies for meat reduction.’


The Meat Exhaustion Day is calculated by comparing the average actual consumption of meat per person with the Planetary Health Diet, recommended by the renowned EAT Lancet Commission. This panel of international scientists give guidance for what would be a consumption pattern that provides healthy food for a growing world population, within planetary boundaries.  

*The Planetary boundaries framework presents a set of nine factors, that ensure a “safe operating space” for future generations. Human activities should not go beyond these boundaries. To calculate the Planetary Health Diet, six of these indicators that are relevant to food were used: Biodiversity loss, freshwater use, extinction rate, land-system change, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling.


Public Relations Officer ZA

Deidre Daniels

Public Relations Officer


+27 (0)21 702 4277

+27 (0)78 675 8220

9B Bell Crescent, Westlake Business Park, 
Green Building, Cape Town, 7945

A Public Relations professional with over eight years’ experience in fostering positive relationships between organisations and media.

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za 

Share now!