WWF-UK optimistic on progress of meat talks
Published:  12 November, 2010

Environmental charity WWF-UK has said that talks between producers and environmentalists on meat consumption and climate change are proving constructive.

Producer organisations now cautiously accept that diets containing less meat are not automatically a threat to profitability, it claimed.

A new report, entitled Livestock consumption and climate change: progress and priorities, from WWF-UK and the Food Ethics Council (FEC), follows a succession of "constructive" meetings with producer groups, particularly Eblex. The report includes recommendations and actions points for producer organisations, the wider food industry, environmental NGOs and govern-ment. Suggestions include that producer organisations look at supermarket producer groups as a mechanism for promoting sustain-able diets. The government also needs to review whether the UK's position in international trade negotiations is compatible with sustainable development, it said.

Meanwhile, environmental groups need to clarify what a lower impact livestock sector means, particularly what they mean when they say people should eat less but better meat and dairy, it urged.

The publication came as the Sustainable Livestock Bill had its second reading in Parliament otoday (Friday). Mark Driscoll, head of WWF-UK's One Planet Food programme, explained: "Many in the livestock industry feel victimised when it comes to the idea of reducing livestock consumption. The meat-eater versus vegetarian debate is a distraction. What we're taking about here is sustainable food choices versus unsustainable ones."

WWF's position is that livestock products contribute 7% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions by the production sector and a third of food emissions. WWF-UK and the FEC believe that, in order to meet the 80% greenhouse gas cuts by 2050 under the Climate Change Act, emissions from food consumption will have to be cut by 70% in the same period.

Achieving this will require both advances in technology including decarbonisation of the energy supply, production efficiencies and methane abatement and behavioural changes, including eating less meat and wasting less food.

Barriers to progress have also been identified, including supermarket pricing policies and competition with high-carbon imports.

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