Cautious welcome for livestock sustainability Bill

A private members Bill that claims to "fix the food chain" has been given a cautious welcome by meat industry leaders.

The Sustainable Livestock Bill, being proposed by Labour MP Robert Flello, aims to address issues around the sustainability of both livestock production, and consumption. The Bill is being supported by Friends of the Earth (FOE), which described it as a bid to "limit the climate and wildlife damage caused by factory farming".

Policy watchers claim it is likely to take similar shape to a proposal by Conservative MP Peter Ainsworth in March, which required government to use taxes, subsidies, grants and tax breaks to support sustainable farming systems and home-grown feeds.

News of the move has been greeted cautiously by industry leaders. The British Meat Processors' Association (BMPA) and National Farmers' Union (NFU) welcomed moves to improve sustainability and dialogue with organisations such as FOE.

The NFU's chief livestock adviser John Mercer said he will soon be meeting with FOE to discuss its new report, Pastures New A Sustainable Future for Livestock Farming, which is being launched to back the Bill. He said: "We are looking forward to hearing what they have to say and want to see their report in more detail. Farmers do take environ-mental responsibility very seriously. We have to remember, though, that in the UK we have a predominantly grass-based production system, which enhances environmental sustainability."

BMPA director Stephen Rossides has yet to see any details on the Bill, but said: "On the face of it, a Bill that seeks to improve the sustainability of the meat and dairy industry is desirable. We are concerned about the long-term sustainability of the industry against the backdrop of declining livestock numbers and the challenges of food scares, climate change and over-regulation of the meat industry."

The Flello Bill, which had its first reading on 30 June, will be debated on 12 November. Flello said: "I am determined to put this right by working with FOE and other MPs to lead the drive for planet-friendly farming that doesn't destroy wildlife, rainforests and our climate."

>>Carbon targets make financial sense insists Eblex

>>Soil Association predicts end to factory farming