Farmers are on the front line of climate change.
Some claim a meat and dairy based diet is a socially acceptable form of science denial; for others it is a business, a job and lifestyle that is all they’ve ever known.
Agriculture is currently responsible for about 9% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from methane. Cattle farming and feed crops for the livestock industry gobble up 40% of the world’s habitable surface. A plant-based food system would require a tenth as much land. Yet global meat consumption continues to rise.
As climate change and increasingly frequent extreme weather events destabilise global agriculture, we’re becoming more dependent on food imports just as geopolitics make it less likely that the world will generously meet our needs. But the focus on greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprints and food miles has diverted attention from other areas of the food system that are just as problematic. These include biodiversity loss; threats to our water; soil fertility loss; toxin exposure from agricultural chemical use; waste and pollution from processing and packaging of food; and the enormous energy consumption of cold storage.
We need to change what we eat and how it is produced.
From crop to consumer – a comprehensive overhaul of farming practices and a move to less intensive production is long overdue.