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Will Turning Vegetarian Really Prevent Climate Change?

28 October 2009

UK - "People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change," according to Lord Stern of Brentford. A statement which has resulted in angry responses from the meat and livestock industry who suggest that Lord Stern does not fully understand livestock production.

In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern blamed livestock methane emissions for putting pressure on the world's resources and creating greenhouse gases.

He continued saying that a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases.

Mr Stern, a professor of economics at London School of Economics, quoted UN figures suggesting that meat production is responsible for about 18 per cent of global carbon emissions and that meat consumption is on course to double by the middle of the century.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) argues that British farmers and growers are aware of their environmental responsibilities and understand the crucial role they have to play in producing more food, while impacting less. Mr Kendall, NFU president said that livestock and dairy sectors have a range of initiatives in place to reduce environmental impacts.

Mr Kendall said that figures show that methane emissions from UK agriculture have fallen by 17 per cent since 1990 and the sector only accounts for one per cent of the UK's total CO2. The industry is constantly looking at ways to reduce livestock emissions such as changing diets, improving productivity and using anaerobic digestion as a source of renewable, green energy.

The National Beef Association (NBA) has said that an attack on climate change will fail if policy makers mistakenly identify red meat production as a front line reason for rising temperatures.

Kim Haywood, director of NBA said that much more than meat eating will have to be addressed to conquer climate change. She stressed that regardless of cattle, methane would continue to be produced through other agricultural production such as cotton, coffee, fruit and vegetable production. From this she questioned whether all agricultural practices should be stopped - will people stop drinking coffee or stop wearing cotton shirts?

She added that it is the Association’s view that if consumers examined the combined impact of their expanding appetite for IT technology and gadgets, household appliances and transport, on climate change, they would realise that eating grass produced beef is not at the top of the list of urgent counter activities they ought to undertake.

Mr Kendall added that farmers and growers are part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem.

Further Reading

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

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