Biodiversity loss refers to the decline of diversity within a species, an ecosystem, a geographical area, or the planet itself. Biodiversity loss is a problem because not only does it harm animals as individuals, it also disrupts the functioning of ecosystems, leaving them at risk of perturbations and less able to meet the needs of life on Earth. Healthy ecosystems are vital in supporting all life on our planet.

So what has biodiversity loss got to do with animals raised for human food and fibre?

A report released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), titled Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, found that livestock production, both grazing and feed production, is the single biggest driver of land-use change, which in itself is the biggest contributor to biodiversity loss [ref].

Climate change 

Climate change is a significant factor affecting biodiversity loss around the globe. Animal agriculture is a significant contributor to the world’s changing climate due to the huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions it emits every year.

Climate change affects biodiversity because it changes the makeup of habitat; if species cannot adapt, they will die out [ref]. This can have a flow on effect to other species that rely on them in the food chain.

Learn more about animal agriculture’s effect on climate change here.

Habitat loss

Land clearing 

The animal agriculture industry requires a huge amount of land, whether that be for grazing pastures, or for feed production for animals raised in intensive farms, which make up the majority of animals raised for slaughter. Land clearing destroys the habitat of the biodiversity that relies on it, and can and has led to species extinction.

Learn more about land clearing due animal agriculture here.

Eutrophication

Eutrophication is the over enrichment of a body of water with nutrients, causing algae blooms and consequently reducing oxygen levels in the water. This can lead to the death of marine life and affected areas are often referred to as ‘dead zones’. Eutrophication can lead to losses in biodiversity when environments become uninhabitable for marine species [ref].

Learn more about eutrophication in relation to the animal industrial complex here.

Fishing industry 

The over exploitation of our oceans through fishing practices has seen significant declines in many marine animal populations, with some even driven to extinction. Losses of marine biodiversity weakens oceanic ecosystems, thereby lessening the ocean’s overall ability to resist disturbances, adapt to climate change, and execute its role as a climate and ecological regulator [ref].