VEGANS HIJACK CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE
Meat eaters could be told to consider turning vegetarian as part of bizarre
attempts to tackle climate change. The suggestion last night saw a major
Government agency come under fire.
A leaked e-mail - seen by the WMN - suggests a wholesale switch to a
lifestyle could potentially have "very significant" benefits
in the fight
against global warming.
Officials acknowledge the public backlash likely from any such public
But the missive sent by the Environment Agency (EA) to a vegan pressure
group suggests encouraging people to question how much meat they eat "could
be a key message" for eco-campaigners in the future.
Such a drive would need to be introduced "gently as there is a risk
alienating the public majority," it added.
The plan was ridiculed by farmers and politicians across the Westcountry
said it was not the place of the "nanny state" to dictate what
A Government website - www.direct.gov.uk/greenerfood - already warns
eating beef, lamb, chicken and milk or cheese contributes to climate change
because of the energy and land needed to rear animals. Ministers are also
considering ways of cracking down on methane emissions from sheep and
And in January, Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw sparked an outcry after
said: "It is generally better to buy locally produced fruit and vegetables
in season and that it is not so good to buy meat, dairy products, highly
processed and highly packaged products."
Last night South Devon beef farmer Richard Haddock said he was "amazed"
EA even entertained the idea of encouraging vegetarianism to address global
warming. He said even raising the issue risked "stirring up a hornets'
He said farmers in the South West were "way ahead of a lot of the
on this" including changing the diets of their livestock to reduce
levels of methane emissions.
"There are ways we can improve the methane emissions by changing
feed our livestock but without livestock at all we are not going to have
lovely green countryside which would change completely. The grass eats
in its own right. These people are totally out of touch with the real
He added that other organisations, including the United Nations, are
"petrified" that farmers are not going to produce enough food
people, especially in the third world.
Shadow farming minister Jim Paice criticised any suggestion that global
warming should change what people eat.
He told the WMN: "From a political perspective, what you eat is
a matter of
individual choice. I don't believe the Government's nanny state should
telling people what is better for them to eat.
"And being vegetarian does fly in the face of human nature. The
fact is we
know that as societies become more prosperous they eat more meat. That
exactly what is happening in India and China. To suggest that Britain
do the opposite is somewhat whistling in the wind.
"Grassland does absorb a lot of C02 and there are vast parts of
that can only grow grass and cannot be used for other crops. They might
as well be growing grass to feed animals than being left idle."
The e-mail from the EA said its strategy for tackling climate change
focus on actions that people would be prepared to accept and undertake
It adds: "Whilst potential benefit of a vegan diet in terms of climate
impact could be very significant, encouraging the public to take a lifestyle
decision as substantial as becoming vegan would be a request few are likely
to take up." Encouraging people to become vegans was "inappropriate"
of campaigning for World Environment Day last year "as it would have
presented little real environmental benefit".
But with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs working
set of key environmental behaviour changes to mitigate climate change,
issue may start to
figure in climate change communications in the future".
The e-mail was prompted by calls by the Viva! campaigning vegetarian
organisation which argues that it is more efficient to use land to grow
crops for humans, rather than feed them to farm animals.
Director Juliet Gellatley said: "I think it is extraordinary that
a Government agency thinks becoming a vegetarian or vegan could have such
a positive impact for the environment yet it is not prepared to stand
up and argue the case."
MATT CHORLEY LONDON EDITOR
11:00 - 30 May 2007