Animal Protection > Worldwide Actions > United Kingdom
Go vegan to help climate, says Government

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

It would help tackle the problem of climate change if people ate less meat, according to a Government agency.

Adopting a vegan diet dramatically reduces one person's impact on the environment

A leaked email to a vegetarian campaign group from an Environment Agency official expresses sympathy with the environmental benefits of a vegan diet, which bans dairy products and fish.

The agency also says the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is considering recommending eating less meat as one of the "key environmental behaviour changes" needed to save the planet.

It says that this change would have to be introduced "gently" because of "the risk of alienating the public".

David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, has raised the issue that farm animals are blamed for producing large amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, and told farmers they need to do something about it but the agency's response appears to go further than official advice.

It has provoked an immediate response from the National Farmers' Union, which said the suggestion was "simplistic" and "a cause of concern".

The agency's official was responding to an email from the vegan group Viva, which argues that it is more efficient to use land to grow crops for direct consumption by humans rather than feeding them to dairy cows or livestock raised for meat.

The campaign group entered a comment on the Environment Agency's website saying: "Adopting a vegan diet reduces one person's impact on the environment even more than giving up their car or forgoing several plane trips a year! Why aren't you promoting this message as part of your [World Environment Day] campaign?"

An agency official replied: "Whilst potential benefit of a vegan diet in terms of climate impact could be very significant, encouraging the public to take a lifestyle decision as substantial as becoming vegan would be a request few are likely to take up.

"You will be interested to hear that the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is working on a set of key environmental behaviour changes to mitigate climate change. Consumption of animal protein has been highlighted within that work. As a result the issue may start to figure in climate
change communications in the future. It will be a case of introducing this gently as there is a risk of alienating the public majority.

"Future Environment Agency communications are unlikely to ever suggest adopting a fully vegan lifestyle, but certainly encouraging people to examine their consumption of animal protein could be a key message."

Juliet Gellatley, director of Viva, said: "I think it is extraordinary that a Government agency thinks becoming a vegetarian or vegan could have such a positive impact for the environment yet it is not prepared to stand up and argue the case."

A Defra spokesman said: "The Government is not telling people to give up meat. It isn't the role of Government to enforce a dietary or lifestyle change on any individual."

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