17 OCTOBER 2017.   The environmental impact of livestock farming

(Chair: Christina Rees MP, 17 October 2017)


There were approximately 40 attendees, including representatives from VIVA, Catholic Concern for Animals, Meat Free Monday, Lush, Climate Keys, and proponents of hemp farming and low carbon agriculture, as well as environmental studies students.


Speakers present

Antony Froggatt, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House and Helen Harwatt international sustainability author and researcher.  The 3rd speaker Griffin Carpenter, Senior Researcher at the New Economics Foundation was unable to attend and his paper was presented by the representative from the Vegan Society.


The United Nations 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change aims to limit the rise of global temperature to 1.5 0 C.  The speakers discussed the essential contribution of decreasing meat and dairy consumption, as the livestock sector is responsible for at least 14.5% global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, decrease in methane emissions can provide quicker reduction of greenhouse gases than solely concentrating on carbon. Brexit may be an opportunity to rethink agricultural policy in the UK and form a more progressive food policy ahead of leaving EU.


By switching from animal agriculture to farming of  beans and pulses, nuts and hemp, carbon release could be slowed considerably in tandem with change in land use, for example reforestation which would actively take carbon out of the atmosphere.


Policy recommendations.

Government policy discussions should include farmers in plant agriculture and not solely livestock.  Some of the huge subsidies given to animal agriculture to be diverted towards farming of plant protein crops.

A connection to be made between government health guidance on cutting meat consumption, and government policy in support of farming plant based proteins.

The need to educate those environmentalists who do not recognise the importance of the connection between animal agriculture and greenhouse gases.


Encouraging the public to cut its meat consumption

Plant based protein can be locally sourced, cheaper, healthier, and in line with the government’s clean growth strategy. More marketing, and change of image relating to plant proteins. Addressing the relationship of consuming animal products with male culture, status and cultural habituation.


Lab made meats may provide an alternative although these are processed foods and at present unregulated.



There is low public awareness of the link between climate change and animal agriculture. Increased education is needed on this, along with the implications for personal and national health. Businesses (with lab meat and other meat substitutes) are responding to a growing interest in plant based protein. Now, government should also be encouraged to respond. The image of a plant based diet should be changed so it is viewed  not as giving up something, but as an aspirational lifestyle and a pioneering way of life to help reduce global warming.


Further information:

Vegan Society Report Labour and Conservative Fringe Conferences

Substitutting Beans for Beef – Helen Harwatt

Chatham House Report Changing climate .

New Economic Foundation

People’s Food Policy


Report by QCA member Julie Hinman