The organisers want at least 10 million people around the world to go meat free for one day (this year on June 15th).
Global food systems will not be able to cope with a predicted 9 million more people on earth in 2050 eating meat – which is one compelling reason why it’s fairly inevitable that diets will have to change.
This is a tricky issue – both for the people who raise animals for food, and for those of us who consume them. Meat producers are understandably reluctant to support moves to reduce consumption of animal protein, as they perceive that it threatens their livelihoods.
And of course nobody likes being told what to eat. But just as the government stepped in over smoking and wearing seatbelts it seems likely that it will one day have to make similar interventions in our diets.
At the Food Ethics Council we think that it’s better to have an open and honest debate before we find ourselves teetering at crisis point and having to take drastic action. That’s why we worked for some years with WWF-UK on the Livestock Dialogues.
‘Livestock consumption and climate change ‘ worked with producers, policy makers and environmental groups to break out of a stalemate over the role that changing meat and dairy consumption should play in mitigating climate change.
Our next piece of work charted progress and priorities on livestock consumption and climate change, and – encouragingly – showed a cautious acceptance amongst producer organisations that diets which lower greenhouse gas emissions (including eating less meat) aren’t automatically a threat to profitability.
The third publication (A Square Meal) fitted another piece –the role of government – into the jigsaw. We worked to explore how government can play its part in enabling people to eat more sustainably in ways that help farming thrive, as well as respecting our freedom to eat what we like.
And our fourth and final cornerstone of this work was ‘Prime Cuts: Valuing the meat we eat’. The aim of this work was to take a first step towards defining ‘less but better’ meat consumption, and to move the debate beyond the highly charged issue of simply encouraging people in the UK to eat less meat.
We wanted to pave the way for a consensus on active policies to reduce meat consumption, whilst at the same time protecting our meat producers.
You can read all of the reports in the Livestock Dialogues series here (opens in a new window).
One really successful outcome of this work was Eating Better, an alliance of NGOs working together to help people move towards eating less meat and more food that is better for us and the planet.
We are a member of Eating Better, and we’re still actively involved in the big debate about meat consumption. For instance, we recently held a high level Business Forum with senior food business executives on the issue of eating our fair share of meat.
It is initiatives like Global Meat Free Day that will kickstart the debate about the impacts of what we eat on the planet. And I hope they will also encourage people to make small changes to their diets that can make a big difference to their health and the health of the planet