According to the National Farmers Union (NFU): “UK greenhouse gas emissions from beef production are half that of the global average.”
The farming industry is fighting back against the supposedly ‘distracting’ claims of Veganuary, which calls for people to help tackle climate change by going vegan in January.
The industry argues that meat is not the culprit as it is made out to be, instead what’s key is the sustainability of the product and where it comes from.
Joe Stanley, a beef and arable farmer in Leicestershire told Sky News that people can help in reducing greenhouse gases by eating more sustainably-produced local meat and reduce their carbon footprint in other ways.
He said Veganuary is just a “gimmick which is distracting society from the bigger questions we need to be addressing around the sustainability of our diets – not just the meat in our diet but the sustainability of all the food we’re consuming and how it’s being produced across the world.”
He added: “There is a danger of casting a very sustainable British industry to the wall in the pursuit of well-meaning campaigns such as Veganuary and then we may find that we’re importing food from other parts of the world which have much worse environmental records and much higher carbon footprints.”
Meat induced carbon emissions
According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the agricultural sector accounts for 10% of UK’s emissions, out of which 6.3% is attributed to methane and waste produced by livestock.
Among other measures, the Committee on Climate Change states the government needs to implement a 20% cut in the consumption of meat and dairy if the UK is to achieve its net-zero goal by 2050.
An Oxford study found that cutting meat and dairy products from one’s diet could reduce an individual’s food-related carbon footprint by up to 73%.
However, Stuart Roberts, deputy president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “People should know that if they want to reduce their carbon footprint at the same time as continuing to enjoy meat and dairy products – they can.
“In the UK greenhouse gas emissions from beef production are half that of the global average.
“British farmers are already leading the way in climate-friendly food and we have an ambition to do even more, working towards net zero food production by 2040.”
Veganuary is a global movement that started in 2014 to encourage people to try plant-based foods in January and beyond to spare animal suffering and be kinder to our planet.
This year, a record-breaking 500,000 have signed up for the challenge, making it the biggest Veganuary cohort since the pledge began.
According to the organization, moving to a plant-based diet is a way of “protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering, and improving the health of millions of people.”
Toni Vernelli, international head of communications for Veganuary, said: “There’s plenty of opportunities for farmers to produce truly sustainable food but it doesn’t need to involve animals.
“Moving to a more plant-based diet is a fairly easy step most of us can take to help tackle climate change.
“In so many ways environmental issues seem out of our control and we don’t think we can make a big impact.
“But we do have control over our diet and that’s one positive change that each and every one of us can make to help us reduce our ecological footprint.”
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