Industry must act over meat consumption, warns WWF

The industry must take action over meat consumption before the government is forced to impose draconian measures, the leader of WWF-UK has warned.

Speaking at the Sustainable Consumption Institute conference recently, WWF-UK chief executive David Nussbaum called for a consumption-based approach to sustainability.

Acknowledging that livestock consumption is a highly contentious issue, which “tends to send many producers and manufacturers running for the hills”, Nussbaum said that production-based emissions cuts will not be sufficient to reverse climate change.

He warned that if consumption is ignored, emissions will keep rising until the government is forced to take “drastic action”, such as rationing or fiscal measures.

“The longer livestock remains the elephant in the room, the more draconian these changes are going to be – on everyone. Conversely, the sooner we start speaking about it and looking at the options, the less invasive they will be,” he said.

Nussbaum stressed that WWF-UK does not want to polarise groups with “knee-jerk, over-simplified campaigns”, but wants to encourage co-operative work towards a common goal.

“To be clear, this is not an anti-capitalist or anti-business message,” he said. “It’s pro-sustainability. It’s pro-efficiency. It’s pro-business. It’s also reality. And while consuming less may mean selling less stuff, it doesn’t have to mean creating less value. How about eating less, but better meat?”

He urged retailers and manufacturers to lead the way and recognise their role in shaping consumer demand, as well as responding to it.

“That’s not to say there won’t be differences – and big ones. This makes it challenging, but the retailers and manufacturers can play a huge part: they cannot just respond to consumer concerns – they have to help shape them,” he said.

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