30 per cent cut in meat production 'would slash emissions'

A 30 per cent reduction in meat production and consumption would have a significant impact on both climate change and heart disease, it has been claimed.

A 30 per cent reduction in meat production and consumption would have a significant impact on both climate change and heart disease, it has been claimed.

Experts warned that animal farming in high income countries such as the UK must be reduced by almost a third if climate change targets for food and agriculture are to be met.

However if this could be achieved it would not only slow global warming but also have important health benefits, they said.

The food and agriculture sector contributes 10 per cent to 12 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Deforestation and other changes in land use result in an additional 6 per cent to 17 per cent.

Writing in The Lancet medical journal, a team of British and Australian scientists pointed out that food production from animals was a major source of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

By 2030, rising demand for meat was expected to drive up livestock production globally by 85 per cent from 2000 levels, leading to substantial emission increases.

The authors, led by Dr Alan Dangour, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Dr Sharon Friel, from the Australian National University in Canberra, wrote: "Technological strategies within the food and agriculture sector, such as improved efficiency of livestock farming, increased carbon capture through management of land use, improved manure management, and decreased dependence on fossil-fuel inputs, are necessary but not sufficient to meet targets to reduce emissions."

They estimated that it would take a 30 per cent reduction in livestock production in richer countries combined with technological strategies to have a meaningful impact on climate change.

A matching 30 per cent reduction in meat consumption could reduce the number of premature deaths from heart disease by about 17 per cent in the UK. This could save as many as 18,000 lives a year.

As well as increasing carbon dioxide and methane emissions, rearing too many farm animals also degraded the soil and reduced its ability to soak up carbon.

The scientists concluded: "Reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in the food and agricultural sector could help to prevent further climate change and reduce the burden of ischaemic heart disease.

"Formulation of appropriate national and international policies that recognise both the benefits of reduced livestock production in high-consumption countries and the need for more equitable distribution of these products remains an important global challenge.

"Such policies will need intersectoral actions and good global governance to succeed."

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them

Close