Livestock consumption must be addressed

The mere mention of livestock consumption in relation to climate change tends to send many manufacturers running for the hills. Fair enough, their livelihood depends on producing meat, so why would they want to hear about reducing the amount they produce? But it's more complicated than that a point I'd like to pick up on following the recent article, 'WWF: government should do more to cut meat consumption' (MTJ, 2 October).

Livestock consumption accounts for around a fifth of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions. Early indications suggest that changes to farming practices, improving energy efficiency in the supply chain, developments in green technology and so on, could go a long way to providing the cuts needed (70% by 2050). Progress is already being made in these areas, but it's unlikely these will take us all the way: there will be a 'gap' to plug.

Plugging that gap and reducing emissions further means talking about consumption. Talking. And then acting. Not jumping feet-first into a knee-jerk campaign to 'eat less meat', for instance. Indeed, in completing the report as part of WWF-UK's One Planet Food programme (Livestock Consumption and climate change: a framework for dialogue), the Food Ethics Council went to great lengths to recognise the concerns of producers and highlight the risks of such campaigning.

Conversations with producers and industry bodies alike were very positive. The result was a series of 27 possible interventions that could help address the impact of livestock consumption on climate change. Now the dialogue needs to begin on which of these could work to reduce emissions without penalising producers, harming diets or otherwise causing more problems than are solved.

One of these suggestions was to encourage consumption of 'less but better' meat, something your thought-provoking editorial in the same issue 'Less meat, more margin' alluded to. There are barriers, but it is an opportunity for industry including retailers to take the lead. So, let's come back from the hills and start talking about livestock consumption and then taking positive action to address it.


Mark Driscoll, head of WWF-UK's One Planet Food programme