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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

Can we talk about the cow in the room?

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PETA’s Angela with a feline friend. Photo Jeff Dawson

Earlier this month, as floods ravaged my hometown of Mullumbimby, my small apartment was transformed into a makeshift animal shelter as I brought home stray cat after stray cat in need of rescue from the rising water. 

Along the way, I met countless others equally invested in the rescue of stricken companion animals. 

No doubt, stories of families refusing to leave their dog behind as they’re winched to safety or wading to higher ground with a kitten in their coat are heart-warming. 

But in the wake of a natural disaster, caused by climate change, such stories also serve as reminders that, in our speciesist society, some animals are more equal than others – an attitude that’s killing not just them but us, too. 

As the heavens delivered their downpour over the Australian east coast last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered a dark warning of its own: its 2022 report, which noted the connection between weather extremes – like flooding – and human-caused climate change. 

The report warns that, owing to inadequate global action, Earth is staring down the barrel of catastrophic warming of over two degrees. 

Especially damning for us, if all countries copied Australia’s dangerously impotent response, this would mean a rise of over three degrees.

Australia is especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change. We’re already experiencing the consequences of our misuse of land, penchant for mining, and archaic global food system, which is both a leading cause of what’s to come and likely to be among the sectors worst affected. 

Even if we manage to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.6 degrees by 2100 (we now sit at 1.1 degrees), some eight per cent of today’s farmland will become climatically unsuitable. Let the heat continue unchecked, and it’s projected that 183 million more people will starve by 2050. 

We’ve known about climate change for decades. 

These are decades in which leaders have thrown billions of dollars at animal agriculture, diverted thousands of gigalitres of water to animal farmers, and frittered away taxpayer money on stopping plant-based products being labelled with words like ‘meat’ and ‘milk’.  Simply put, the warnings have been ignored each time they’ve been issued. 

Vegan diet

In 2018, researchers at the University of Oxford reported that eating a vegan diet could be the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your environmental impact. Meanwhile, the United Nations has stated that a global shift towards plant-based eating is essential to combatting the worst effects of climate change.

Climate change isn’t some far off future threat. 

It’s already on our doorstep with floods and fires. It will soon be joined by rising sea levels, that engulf our coastal homes and temperatures that many animals – including humans – can’t survive. 

Angela Banovic is campaigns and communication manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

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  1. Cats don’t treat other animals ethically. They are skilled killers who torture their prey. Be careful not to expose yourself to obvious criticism from flesh eaters and assorted thugs.

  2. I don’t have a cat & I’m aware of their failings. I’m also more than aware
    that humans – like cats – can become society’s downfall.

  3. Fake milk made from almonds is incredibly wasteful of water, fake vegan meat and fake chicken were the only products left on the shelves during the supermarket food shortages following the floods. Vegans support massive grain growing companies who are driving obesity rates in humans up with their sugary cereal products. The same companies kill millions of mice, snakes and insects through pesticide sprays and harvesting machines”: some animals are more equal than others” indeed: do vegans only care about mammals?

  4. My reality is . . . I once had a neutered Maine Coon Cat. A gentle giant. Wherever
    I went he followed. Sat in the sun next to me – naturally. On my say-so he rounded
    up the horses. Shared his food with the 2nd cat. Balked any stranger entering the
    farm & swam in the dam with the platypus. On shopping days he wore a seat-belt
    & carefully ate an ice cream treat. Clyde was a miracle, an unforgettable friend.

    • Sounds like a great friend. Love to hear about such experiences, and he does sound like an experience.
      The principles of PETA would preclude you from ever having had that experience. They consider that to be exploitation.
      I’m all for shaping nature to serve humans. He wasn’t being what a cat is made to be, he was being a cat in civilisation, and I’m sure he was happy. He still got to exercise his instincts, in a helpful way, and benefited from it. That’s the classical definition of justice that Socrates identified.


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