This Tuesday (17th October), a public discussion was held in the Houses of Parliament, where the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism addressed the impact of animal agriculture on climate change.
In reference to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, signed last year by 195 states and the EU, MPs and experts warned that targets were unlikely to be met should animal agriculture be ignored as a major contributing factor.
Currently, there are 5 vegan MPs in the UK, one of whom is Kerry McCarthy whose appointment as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2015 by Jeremy Corbyn caused quite a stir. Contributing to the conversation, McCarthy asked the questions ‘Why is [livestock farming] missing from all the strategy documents? Why is it missing from the Paris Agreement?’
Also present were Louise Davies of the Vegan Society, and Helen Harwatt, an expert in sustainability. According to Lush, Davies put forward the argument that the UK needs ‘to reduce the number of animals [it] farm[s] in order to meet [its] climate change targets.’
Recent research by Harwatt has demonstrated just how much of a difference turning to non-animal sources of protein can make in the effort to move towards more sustainable food choices for our ever-growing population. She proved that if US citizens replaced all the beef in their diets with beans, a considerable portion of land (equivalent to one and a half Californias) would no longer need to be used for agricultural purposes.
Harwatt also suggested that a move to plant-based alternatives was a much more manageable and simple solution in comparison to attempting to deal with the effects of global warming commenting that ‘Getting used to new flavours is really a walk in the park compared with the wrath of climate change.’
During the discussion, it was suggested that the UK might take the opportunity to place taxes on animal products when the country leaves the EU. Currently, the UK imposes taxes on products such as alcohol, cigarettes, and sugar, due to the negative health implications of using or consuming them. One environmental researcher comments that ‘other things that are bad for us, we quite happily tax.’
Harwatt encouraged parliament to consider the role that businesses themselves have in bringing about change. She suggested that businesses have such a large influence on the agricultural market, that they should change their products to include fewer animal products.
It is unclear as to whether this discussion will lead to any actual change being implemented. However, many environmentalists have previously criticised the Paris Agreement for failing to include any targets on animal agriculture, and addressing the topic itself is a huge step forward.