I wonder how many of you heard the piece on the Today programme where Liz O’Neal from the Vegetarian Society stated that we should all be veggie/vegan to help climate change as farm animals produce more methane than the airline industry. The interview was prompted by a leaked email from the Environment Agency to a vegetarian campaign group.
It took the headlines in the South West’s daily paper the Western Morning News – ‘Vegans Hijack Climate Debate’. And has caused outcry amongst the farming community and shadow ministers.
So what do I think? Well, I’m horrified of course – I’m a beef farmer.
But isn’t this what climate change is all about? Isn’t it going to affect all our lives in every way? Instead of hiding our heads in the sand, we should look the beast in the eyes and begin to make changes.
There have been many studies done on the impact farming has, not just on the immediate environment, but also the global environment. These have shown that cattle are a major source of concern and are one of the chief contributors to global warming through methane emissions.
Where do we go from here?
I believe that we have to look at producing cheap, safe food for the entire planet but not at the expense of all else. I don’t think this means that the planet should give up eating meat, but should think twice about consuming the huge quantities of intensively reared animals it does at present (I’m not even going to touch on animal welfare issues here).
With science and technology surging forward in leaps and bounds it should soon be possible to ‘grow’ the ubiquitous ‘chicken breast’ or ‘beefburger’ in a controlled environment using micro organisms, hopefully with far less impact on the climate. But until then, surely we farmers should think carefully about how we affect Earth’s future and do what we can to make that more secure.