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Farming for Forever

Truly Sustainable Agriculture

Human farming of non-human animals is causing extensive damage to our environment. In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation showed that ‘the global livestock industry’ is in the top three causes of all major environmental problems, including global climate change1. Climate change is a major threat to human health. In 2009, the UCL Lancet Global Health Commission concluded, “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”2. Our animal farming makes it harder for the most vulnerable people to feed themselves. In 2009, United Nations Environment Programme revealed that the basic calorie needs of 3.5 billion humans could be met by the net grain waste each year in the world ‘livestock’ industry3. The current typical British meat-and-dairy based diet is adding to chronic disease and greenhouse gas emissions. In 2012, public health experts from Cambridge University have shown that shifting from meat-based diets can reduce our risks of major illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer, whilst also cutting our greenhouse gas emissions at the same time4. Rising input costs are destroying animal farmer livelihoods. A move away from animal farming will help improve rural livelihoods, tackle climate change, improve global food security and reduce risks of serious diseases. In 2009, The Vegan Society estimated that healthy vegan diets in the UK can require just one third the fertile land, fresh water and energy of the typical British ‘meat-and-dairy’ based diet5. The current Natural Environment White Paper of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee suggests that the Ecological Focus Areas system should be used to benefit both the environment and food security6,7. We call on the UK Government to recognise and act upon the environmental, health and food security benefits of a move away from animal farming. We invite MPs to submit Parliamentary Questions on specific and practical issues such as: 1. In the light of the recommendations of The Environmental Audit Committee Sustainable Food report8, and given the proven benefits of sustainable plant-based farming and diets, how does the Government plan to increase support for UK farmers wishing to switch from animal farming to plant agriculture? 2. What steps has Defra taken toward fulfilling the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee recommendation that Defra publish a timetabled delivery plan for each of the Natural Environment White Paper commitments, particularly those relating to food security? 3. The Committee on Climate Change highlights that, “Estimates of UK agricultural emissions include significant uncertainties” and notes that, “The Government has committed to investing in the agriculture evidence base to better understand and measure emissions from farming systems and develop a more accurate inventory that can reflect mitigation activities. This work is due to complete in 2015.”9 What specific steps have been taken so far toward accurately estimating the true total of greenhouse gas emissions associated with UK animal farming, including all overseas emissions associated with imported cereals and soya use to feed UK animals?

One world. Many lives. Our choice.

References 1

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Livestock’s Long Shadow: environmental issues and options. Rome, Italy: FAO; 2006 (accessed 14 Sep 2012)


Costello A. et al. 2009 Managing the health effects of climate change. Lancet 2009; 373: 1693–733


United Nations Environment Programme. The environmental food crisis. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP; 2009 http:// (accessed 14 Sep 2012)


Aston L. M., Smith J. N. et al. Impact of a reduced red and processed meat dietary pattern on disease risks and greenhouse gas emissions in the UK: a modelling study, BMJ Open 2012;2:e001072 doi: 10.1136/ bmjopen-2012-001072 (accessed 14 Sep 2012)


Walsh S. using information from Defra. Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities. Main Report. Defra Research Project IS0205. Bedford, UK: Cranfield University and Defra; 2006


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament. Natural Environment White Paper 2012. London, UK: EFRAC; 2012 cmenvfru/492/49202.htm (accessed 14 Sep 2012)


“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Secretariat. Issue Brief 9 Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture 2011. Rio, Brazil. UNCSD; 2011 &nr=227&menu=45 (accessed 14 Sep 2012)


Environmental Audit Committee. Eleventh Report: Sustainable Food. London, UK: EAC; 2012 (accessed 14 Sep 2012)


Committee on Climate Change. Emissions from Agriculture information. London, UK: CCC; (accessed 14 Sep 2012)

One world. Many lives. Our choice. The Vegan Society, Donald Watson House, 21 Hylton St, Hockley, Birmingham B18 6HJ UK Reg. Charity No 279228 Registered in England & Wales Company Reg. No 1468880 Registered in England & Wales VAT Reg. No 448 5973 95

One world. Many lives. Our choice.

Farming for Forever  

Truly Sustainable Agriculture Briefing for World Vegan Eve in Parliament 2012

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