A BBC documentary exposing the ‘devastating effect on eco systems’ of meat production has been countered by the Sustainable Food Trust, which challenges the programme’s key position that consumers should cut meat consumption to protect the environment.
‘Meat, A Threat to Our Planet?’ was broadcast on 25 November, investigating the environmental impact of animals raised for meat consumption.
Speaking to What’s On TV, presenter and animal biologist Liz Bonnin said: “In the last 50 years the global cattle population has increased by 400 million, the number of pigs has doubled and the number of chickens has increased five-fold, and all to keep up with our meat-eating demands. This is having a devastating effect on our eco systems … the ever-increasing number of livestock is contributing to global warming.”
But since the programme aired, Patrick Holden, CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT), has called for differentiation ‘between the livestock systems and meats that are part of the problem, and those that are part of the solution’.
“There is no doubt that grain fed, intensively farmed livestock … are hugely damaging to the environment and public health, and for this reason should be phased out entirely,” he says.
Sustainable agriculture, Holden believes, represents one of the most ‘significant opportunities to mitigate irreversible climate change, primarily through the regeneration of our soils’. Grazing ruminant animals, he says, play a critically important role in replenishing soil fertility and rebuilding carbon stocks.
“We must move away from the prominent models of intensive, often monoculture systems which rely heavily on chemical inputs, towards more regenerative, mixed farming models.
“Whilst we must all be striving to eat more plants, just as importantly as scrutinizing where our animal products come from, we must also question the provenance and wider impact of the plants we eat. Are, for example, imported soy or palm oil products, or highly processed meat alternatives, better than eating something we can produce in a sustainable way on our doorstep?”