Goverment report backs reduction in livestock numbers
A GOVERNMENT-BACKED report calling for significant reductions in livestock numbers to tackle climate change and health problems has provoked anger within the farming sector.
The report, part funded by the Department of Health, has the backing of three senior Cabinet Ministers, who appear keen to utilise its findings in negotiations on a new global climate change deal at next month’s Copenhagen summit. But despite the focus on food production, Defra appears not to have been involved.
The report, a series of six documents on how climate change policies will affect the health across the globe published in The Lancet, takes the debate about meat consumption to a new level.
It says efficiency improvements in the food and farming sector ‘must be accompanied by a 30 per cent reduction in livestock in high-producing countries to meet climate change targets’.
It adds that this would have ‘positive effects’ on human health through reductions in heart disease if it translated into reduced meat and, therefore, saturated fat consumption.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband and International Development Minister Mike Foster all endorsed it as it was launched yesterday (Wednesday, November 25).
Mr Burnham said the associated costs to health of climate change were a ‘very real and present danger’ and, ‘with the world coming together’ at Copenhagen, called for ‘well-designed climate change policies that drive health benefits’.
Mr Miliband said a deal in Copenhagen would result in ‘immediate green benefits in terms of a healthier environment and lifestyle’ for a low carbon Britain and world.
However, the report’s stance on livestock appears to conflict with the messages coming from Defra Secretary Hilary Benn on the need for farmers to ‘produce as much food as possible today’, while protecting resources for future production.
The Lancet was condemned as ‘simplistic’ and ‘ill-informed’ by NFU president Peter Kendall, who said it appeared to ‘completely misunderstand agriculture’s emissions and its role in climate change’.