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The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has taken a strong stand against factory farming of animals, and against the industrial ways in which most meat and dairy are produced. Given the reluctance among many mainstream activists, scholars, and policy-makers to concede that livestock are problems for climate and health, this is good news.

You see, a few months back I was at a national food-studies conference, listening to a scholar talk about ways in which industrial food systems harm environments. But there was not a word about animal agriculture for meat and dairy -- despite its large amount of greenhouse gas emissions, its outsized use and degradation of global land, and its pollution of water, soil, and air.

So I asked the scholar, a white settler seemingly of European descent, why her research group doesn't talk about animal agriculture. After an awkward moment, she answered: "For Indigenous people, animals are part of traditional diets. So we can't say anything bad about meat."

I was stunned. Has our fear of appearing judgmental overwhelmed our rationality?  Because not only is intensive industrial meat production bad for the planet, it's devastating for Indigenous people. That's because factory farming is the leading cause globally of deforestation and loss of biodiversity. And Indigenous people who wish to engage in traditional hunting or gathering cannot do so with degraded forests, wetlands, and wild plants and animals. 

Meat production destroys forests, plants, and wild animals.

Making meat is the main cause of planetary deforestation and destruction of wild habitat. Of all planetary acreage used for agriculture, livestock use more than 80% of it to produce less than 20% of calories we consume and less than 40% of our protein. [1]

And beef is the biggest culprit.  Beef production drives deforestation five times more than any other sector: That was one headline on an article summarizing scientific studies. [2]

I've been reluctant to talk about this.

Nevertheless, I too have hesitated to write or talk about this.  As a settler of British descent, I don't claim to know what's good and what's not for Indigenous communities and people of colour.

So I was heartened to see that the UBCIC, at a chiefs' council on June 8, 2023, unanimously passed Resolution 2023-19 [3], calling for more ethical and sustainable ways of doing animal agriculture, and declaring that modern-day factory farming erodes the integrity, health, and values of Indigenous people. The resolution was moved by Judy Wilson, a leader in the Osoyoos Indian Band, and seconded by Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation. [3]

Here's some of the damage from factory farming.  

Entitled Call to Strengthen Animal Farming Practices and Address the Significant Environmental Impacts of Factory Farming, the gutsy 2-page resolution can be read quickly.  And here are some of its main arguments: 

  • Indigenous peoples have a spiritual and ethical responsibility to treat animal relations with respect, reciprocity, and dignity.
  • Indigenous communities have a right to participate in key societal decision-making, including involving land and resource use. according to both the United Nations and the government of Canada.
  • The UBCIC Chiefs Council supports moral and cruelty-free relations with animals, and says fishing, trapping, and harvesting should be guided by stewardship, sustainability, and accountability.
  • In today's factory farming, animals are crowded unnaturally into small enclosed areas to produce meat, eggs, or milk as cheaply as possible.
  • Factory farming is responsible for massive forest clearance and "the displacement of Indigenous peoples and our animal kin" for the over-production of meat and dairy products. 
  • Legislation related to factory farming and the treatment of farmed animals is virtually non-existent, and the purported overseeing body, the National Farm Animal Council, lacks transparency and accountability.
  • The chiefs’ council rejects the current legal and regulatory landscape of factory farming, and calls for discussions, legislation, regulations, and policies that would support ethical and sustainable animal agriculture. 

Maybe a better way of supporting Indigenous food sovereignty is to work against industrial animal agriculture rather than sidestepping the topic.  



[1]  Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). "Reducing food's environmental impacts through producers and consumers." Science, 360(6392), 987-992

[2] "Beef production drives deforestation five times more than any other sector." 22 April 2021.

[3] UBCIC Resolution 2023-19 is on the UBCIC site at:

Here's a UBCIC open letter to the federal government on the topic:

And you can access the resolution directly at:


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