NFU Responds to Interview on 'Saving the Planet'

UK - The NFU has issued a statement in response to yesterday's front page story in The Times, where Lord Stern of Brentford said, "Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better."
calendar icon 28 October 2009
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The article entitled Climate chief: give up meat to save the planet is based around an interview with Lord Stern, author of the 2006 Stern Review.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: "Lord Stern is a respected economist and climate change commentator, but his remarks, as quoted by The Times newspaper, suggest that he does not fully understand livestock production. Such an over-simplified message does not take account of the complex interactions within the food and farming system, and the fact that much of our agricultural land is unsuitable for arable and vegetable crops. Indeed livestock production is based on grassland which stores more carbon than any other land use in England.

Mr Kendall said that British farmers and growers take their environmental responsibilities very seriously and understand the crucial role they have to play in producing more food, while impacting less. "As such livestock and dairy sectors have a range of initiatives aimed at reducing their impact on the environment. Examples include the Environmental Plan for Dairy Farming and the Milk and Meat Roadmaps," he said.

According to Mr Kendall, figures have revealed that methane emissions from UK agriculture have fallen by 17 per cent since 1990 and the sector only accounts for around one per cent of the UK's total carbon dioxide emissions. Practical measures to further reduce emissions from livestock are being looked at, including changing diets, improving productivity and using anaerobic digestion to produce biogas as a source of renewable, green energy. The NFU is looking forward to the opportunities for investment in low-carbon farming, he said.

"As public food preferences change gradually over time farmers will continue to satisfy the needs of the market but the NFU does not support deliberate manipulation of consumer demand," Mr Kendall said.

Mr Kendall said that focussing on a single issue as way of saving the planet is extremely irresponsible and likely to be counterproductive. According to him, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock in the UK by a contraction of the industry, in order to reduce output and livestock numbers, would simply 'export' the country's emissions to other countries. "This is likely to also lead to an increase in the amount of UK food which we would be forced to import," he said.

"I have always said that farmers and growers see themselves as part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem," concluded Mr Kendall.

Further Reading

- You can view the article on Lord Stern's interview in The Times by clicking here.
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