A new report detailing the ongoing dialogue shows a cautious acceptance among producer organisations that diets which lower greenhouse gas emissions are not automatically a threat to profitability, including diets containing less meat.
However, the dialogues identified a variety of barriers standing in the way of progress, including supermarket pricing policies, a lack of direction from government and competition with high carbon imported products.
The report – ‘Livestock consumption and climate change: progress and priorities’ – includes a series of recommendations and actions for producer organisations, the wider food industry, environmental NGOs and government to ensure this debate continues.
The findings support the case for the Sustainable Livestock Bill, which has its second reading today 12 November. WWF-UK and the FEC said the Bill would provide an ideal opportunity to take the dialogue on sustainable farming and food to a new level, involving not only producers, but manufacturers, retailers, NGOs and government. They encouraged MPs to back the Bill.
Mark Driscoll, head of WWF-UK’s One Planet Food programme, said:
“Many in the livestock industry feel victimised when it comes to the idea of reducing livestock consumption, and I can understand why. The meat eater versus vegetarian debate is a distraction. What we’re taking about here is sustainable food choices versus unsustainable ones. This report, and the encouraging dialogue we’ve had with some producer organisations, provides the perfect foundation to develop sustainable food choices through a Sustainable Livestock Bill. This government has an opportunity to make united progress.”
Over the past year, WWF-UK and the FEC have been working on a framework to help producers, policy makers and environmental groups break out of a stalemate over the role that changing meat and dairy consumption should play in tackling climate change.
The new report recommends a variety of actions to achieve this, including:
– Producer organisations to explore the strengths and limitations of supermarket producer groups as a mechanism for promoting sustainable diets
– Government to review whether the UK’s position in international trade negotiations is compatible with our commitment to sustainable development
– Environmental groups to clarify the vision they have for a lower impact livestock sector, particularly what they mean when they say people should eat ‘less but better’ meat and dairy.
Dr Tom MacMillan, executive director of the FEC, said:
“Behind the noisy headlines about meat, dairy and climate change we’ve found a great deal of goodwill among farmers and environmentalists, who want to find a way forward that takes climate change and animal welfare seriously, and doesn’t leave producers out of pocket. But it’s going to be difficult, and many of the barriers – in international trade and competition particularly – can only be tackled by government. The government has a mandate to take on this challenge, and today’s debate on the Sustainable Livestock Bill is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate its good faith.”
WWF-UK and the FEC believe that in order to meet the 80% greenhouse gas cuts by 2050 under the Climate Change Act, emissions from food consumption will have to be cut by 70% in the same period. Achieving this will require both advances in technology – including decarbonisation of the energy supply, production efficiencies and methane abatement – and behavioural changes, including eating less meat and wasting less food.
Notes to Editors