Animal Agriculture and Climate Change in the US and UK Elite Media: Volume, Responsibilities, Causes and Solutions

Environ Commun. 2021;15(2):153-172. doi: 10.1080/17524032.2020.1805344. Epub 2020 Sep 7.


Animal agriculture is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to 14.5% of global emissions, which is approximately the same size as the transportation sector. Global meat consumption is projected to grow, which will increase animal agriculture's negative impact on the environment. Public awareness of the link between animal food consumption and climate change is low; this may be one of many obstacles to more effective interventions to reduce meat consumption in Western diets, which has been proposed by many research institutions. This study analyzes how much attention the UK and US elite media paid to animal agriculture's role in climate change, and the roles and responsibilities of various parties in addressing the problem, from 2006 to 2018. The results of the quantitative media content analysis show that during that period, volume of coverage remained low, and that when the issue was covered, consumer responsibility was mentioned more than that of governments or largescale livestock farms. In similar fashion, a range of options around personal dietary change was far more prominent in the media discussion of solutions than government policies, reforming agricultural practices or holding major animal food companies accountable for their emissions.

Keywords: Animal agriculture; US and UK media; climate change; content analysis; meat consumption.