Leading organisations in the meat industry have hit back at accusations that meat consumption is the one of the main reasons why the planet faces catastrophic climate change.
Speaking to a Sunday newspaper, Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chair Dr Rajendra Pachauri said that giving up meat one day a week "is the most attractive opportunity", alongside other measures, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet representatives from different meat bodies claimed the industry was, in fact, at the forefront of protecting the environment.
National Farmers' Union (NFU) spokeswoman Sharon Hockley said: "The NFU is committed to ensuring farming is part of the solution to climate change, rather than being part of the problem, and we strongly support research aimed at reducing methane emissions from livestock farming by, for example, changing diets and using anaerobic digestion."
Statistics from the NFU showed that the farming sector accounted for around 7% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, agriculture accounted for only a small proportion of total UK emissions of the most significant greenhouse gas, CO2, which was around 1% in 2004.
Louise Welsh, Quality Meat Scotland director of communications, said: "As always, when simplistic solutions like this are put forward, they actually create more problems than they solve."
At Compassion in World Farming's Peter Roberts Memorial Lecture, entitled 'Global Warming: the Impact of Livestock Production and Consumption on Climate Change', held at the Institute of Engineering & Technology, London, CIWF chief executive Philip Lymbery called for laws to be passed to cut meat consumption globally. "We need to consider seriously an international treaty to set targets to reduce meat consumption globally, in a balanced way," he said.
Dr Pachauri, who also spoke at the lecture, reinforced claims that, for every household to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, it needed to reduce meat consumption. "I think that's a lifestyle change that each of us has within our power to bring about," he said. "I was told that the UK beef industry - or whatever the association is called - is very angry about what I've said, and I'll be surprised if they weren't."
Former meat-eater turned vegetarian Dr Pachauri emphasised that he did not agree that people should be enforced by law to eat less meat. "The BBC asked me whether government should legislate or require individuals to reduce their meat consumption and I said 'No'. Governments shouldn't assume that kind of role."