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’.

Readers' comments (4)

  • NFU President Peter Kendall is a doughty fellow. No matter where the research comes from he bares his teeth and growls at it - "Rubbish". Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Rubbish! United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation. Rubbish. The Lancet. Rubbish! Stern. Rubbish! Innumerable universities. Rubbish! Reminds me of my mum when I was on parade in the army cadets. "Can you believe it", she said, "the whole brigade is out of step apart from our Tony". It's one thing to defend your interests but not when the writing on the wall is six feet high and in Dayglo paint. Just look where being obdurate got Ned Ludd!

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  • I believe DEFRA has since pointed out the report's flaws.
    Three main flaws mainly being, that if we culled 30% of our livestock, we wouldn't eat less, we'd just import more from developing countries, possibly causing an increase in deforestation. There are also logistical issues around culling 30% of our livestock (!), and possibly may impact our farming community in a detrimental way?!!!
    Not joined up thinking from Whitehall - simplistic ideas without good techical research behind it is just not acceptable.

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  • For the benefit of your readers who will not have heard of this from the BBC, or many of the newspapers in the UK the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia has had its file released to the public. They have manipulated data regarding Global warming to show the temperature is rising, when in fact global temperatures have been falling.

    Have a look here:

    And now the government want you to cull 30% of your cattle? Do you not think that I might buy brazilian beef if I cant get my hands on a good piece of British?

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  • If the government want to reduce livestock to make us healthier why do they not want to reduce potato farming every body knows the harm chips and crisp do. This is just a very old Tony Blair idea and we all know the mess he left us with. If this is the best our country can offer to reduce climate we will be the laughing stock of scandinavia .

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