Farmers say Veganuary is a ‘gimmick’ and animal farming is a ‘sustainable British industry’

Read Time:   |  7th January 2021

The NFU (National Farmers Union) has branded Veganuary a 'gimmick' which negatively impacts the 'sustainable' British industry of animal farming.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is hitting out at Veganuary once again, claiming it is a ‘gimmick’ and ‘distracts’ the public from the real issue of sustainability.

They claim that “UK greenhouse gas emissions from beef production are half that of the global average” and therefore meat should not be demonised in the way it is.

However, the issue with animal farming is not how it is transported, as this only accounts for a minuscule proportion of the emissions. In fact, in the UK transport emissions for beef are only 0.5% of total emissions. Instead, the majority contribution comes from land use and methane, of which ‘local meat’ is still guilty.

Additionally, the WWF published a report this year which strongly recommended a shift away from animal protein to lower carbon plant-based protein in the UK. This shift would save 846 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050, assuming meat and dairy consumption reached a 75% reduction.

Moreover, a study published by researchers from the UK itself (Oxford University) found that eating a vegan diet could be the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact on the earth, regardless of whether you are from the UK or not.

Are avocados and nuts really worse than British beef?

Leicestershire based beef farmer Joe Stanley told Sky News: “There is a danger of casting a very sustainable British industry to the wall in the pursuit of well-meaning campaigns such as Veganuary and then we may find that we’re importing food from other parts of the world which have much worse environmental records and much higher carbon footprints.”

The problems with this claim are twofold:

  1. If vegans actually swapped avocados for British beef, even the lowest impact beef still causes six times more emissions than the green fruit.
  2. Not all meat-alternatives are made from imported foods. Here in the UK, we already grow wheat, peas and oats in high quantities, three plant foods which can create amazing meat alternatives. One example is Birds Eye’s Green Cuisine range, which uses pea protein to replicate sausages, burgers and even chicken.

Is British animal farming sustainable?

The short answer is no.

Animal-based foods use 85% of agricultural British land, while only delivering 32% of calories consumed by Brits – which is completely unsustainable.

This is because the majority of plant foods grown here in the UK is fed to our livestock to then produce meat and dairy. This is not an efficient food system as, quite obviously, a cow eats a lot more than a human.

Instead, farming protein crops on land used for feeding animals could provide us with a much more sustainable way of feeding the nation, while also tackling the environmental and animal welfare concerns of commercial factory farming.

While many animal farmers are now plugging the benefits of a ‘regenerative animal agriculture system’, these are still less sustainable than simply eating plant foods instead.

In fact, an analysis of 313 different food systems found that diets which produced the highest GHG emissions were those with a high meat demand, especially those which focus on ruminant (regenerative) meat and milk. In contrast, vegan diets produced the lowest emissions.

Going vegan is not simply a ‘gimmick’, and if you are concerned about your contribution to the climate crisis, eating more plant foods and fewer animal products is the way to go.

Ever wondered what our future would look like if plant-based farming became widespread?

Read our article to find out!

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