Livestock Non-Proliferation Treaty (updated)

–Assume livestock are toxic weapons that must be renounced in the name of climate change. Like nuclear weapons, they pose such a global threat that nations sign the Livestock Non-Proliferation Treaty (LNPT). It’s to rollback, relinquish or abolish livestock, analogous to the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT, for short).

How would the LNPT be implemented, i.e., what are the ways to reduce these toxic stockpiles of dangerous animals?

If the NPT history serves as our guide, the focus quickly becomes the feasibility and desirability of particular livestock elimination scenarios. Scenarios in the plural because context matters, e.g., the way South Africa renounced nuclear weapons could not be the same ways Belarus and Ukraine relinquished them, etc.

If the nations of the world committed themselves to abolishing climate-harmful livestock, we too would expect them to do so through multiple different scenarios, their feasibility and desirability tailored to national or regional contingencies.

Accordingly, reductions in intensive livestock production would surely be among the first priority scenarios under LNPT. Extensive livestock systems would as well be expected to have different rollback scenarios. For example, where livestock are still to be found, they would also have climate-positive impacts: They demonstrably promote biodiversity, and/or demonstrably serve as better fire management, and/or demonstrably establish food sovereignty, and/or demonstrably enable off-rangeland employment of those who would have herded livestock instead, etc.

It’s crucial to note that, when it comes to feasibility, these latter scenarios have been found to already exist and empirically documented as widespread.

In other words, wouldn’t we be right back to where we are today, without having to continue to pigeon-hole these strategies as “pastoralist only” or being defensive about other environmentally friendly scenarios based in extensive livestock production?

–In case there is any doubt about the high disesteem in which I hold the notion of a LNPT, let me be clear: If corporate greenwashing is “an umbrella term for a variety of misleading communications and practices that intentionally or not, induce false positive perceptions of an organization’s environmental performance,” then environmental livestock-tarring is “an umbrella term for a variety of misleading communications and practices that intentionally or not, induce false negative perceptions of a system’s environmental performance.”

Principal sources

Egeland, K. (2021). A theory of nuclear disarmament: Cases, analogies, and the role of the non-proliferation regime. Contemporary Security Policy, DOI: 10.1080/13523260.2021.1978159.

Houzer, E. and I. Scoones (2021). Are Livestock Always Bad for the Planet? Rethinking the Protein Transition and Climate Change Debate. Brighton: PASTRES, IDS Sussex.

Nemes, N., D. Stabinsky, S.J. Scanlan, P. Smith, T. Smith, M. Aronczyk, S.L. Lewis, A.W. Montgomery, and F.N. Tubiello (2021). An Integrated Framework to Assess Greenwashing. CSSN Working Paper 2021:1.

Terazono, E. and C. Hodgson (2021). “How methane-producing cows leapt to the frontline of climate change.” Financial Times (accessed online on October 10 2021 at

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