Turf kicked up in government U-turn

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Grass-fed livestock… animals that the Lancet forgot!

A government u-turn was swiftly undertaken yesterday, following a report published in The Lancet. Embarrasing conflicts of opinion emerged from different UK goverment departments. 

The health department funded a study which proposed we should eat less meat, to reduce numbers of ruminant livestock (which belch out methane, a powerful greenhouse gas) and therefore counteract the health hazards of both climate change, and heart disease!

Alan Dangour, one of the authors of the report and a senior lecturer at the London School of School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that a dramatic change could be made without giving up meat.
“We are not saying become vegetarian, we are just saying cut back on the amount of meat and meat products you eat.” “Even cutting back by a third, as we suggest, would still mean that the average adult was still eating one meat based meal every day.”

The report recommended cutting ruminant livestock by almost one-third, saying this would allow the agricultural sector to meet its share of targets to cut carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.

Defra, however, had not been consulted. They have now pointed out that British farmers won’t be happy about the idea of less livestock in the UK. They also highlight the fact that cutting Britain’s cattle and sheep should not necessarily be prioritised ahead of reductions in the more damaging phenomenon of rainforest-clearance beef herds in tropical regions.

The Defra panic –  BBC News (25 Nov)

James Landale reports that Defra had to act to calm worried farmers: ‘A senior official sent out an email telling them not to worry about the Lancet report: “This, as we know, rather over-simplifies a complex issue and I don’t think that Andy Burnham has actually said anything that supports the headline that govt supports a 30% reduction in farm animals.”’

Soil Association comment:

The Soil Association’s report on soil carbon, released today, shows that grass-fed livestock has a critical role to play in minimising carbon emissions from farming – which should be set against the methane emissions from cattle and sheep. This is because grasslands for grazing livestock represent vitally important carbon stores.

Sheepdrove comment:

Grass-fed animals on permanent pastures in Britain are far more sustainable than grain-fed livestock in the USA, for example. Therefore eating less meat is too simple a concept. It is more important than ever to choose carefully where your meat comes from. Read more about grass-fed livestock…

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