Farmers: Climate message misleading
THE “sweeping “statements about agriculture made by celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley, Deborah Meaden, Billie Eilish and Chris Packham in the run up to UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) fail to notice the positive relationship between UK sheep farming and the environment, says the National Sheep Association (NSA).
Calls to reduce global meat production have been made in a letter to MP Alok Sharma, COP26 President, signed by 18 celebrities who have chosen plant-based diets.
The NSA says it is right to discuss food production systems within the climate change debate but has warned that farming which works in harmony with nature should not be overlooked.
Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, says: “The over-simplification of this message is misleading – not least because UK agriculture, and particularly sheep farming, is different to countries that do not grow as much grass as us.
“The UK sheep industry operates extensively on open pasture, much of which is unsuitable for other land use.
“Grass-fed lamb has a far lower environmental impact compared to processed foods based on soya, almonds or palm oil, with pasture also acting as a vital carbon sink.
“Sheep used in mixed farming systems help naturally rejuvenate soil for arable crops, and farmers of all different types work hard to find a balance between biodiversity and productivity on farm, providing thriving habitats to support and protect nature.
“In addition, NSA strongly believes a holistic approach to sustainability is essential in order to meet environmental, economic and social goals.
“Jumping to the conclusion that removing farming will reduce emissions completely overlooks the contribution made by agriculture to nature recovery, landscape management and food production. It would erode the cultural and historical value of rural communities, destroying employment and career opp-
ortunities, social infrastructure, education, social enterprise and traditional artisan methods.”
In the letter, the celebrities wrote: ““Planet Earth is in grave trouble, facing a climate emergency that requires urgent action.” It adds that animal agriculture makes up 14.5 to 16.5 percent of all human-driven greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
“This makes animal agriculture the second-highest GHG emitter in the world, on par with all forms of global transport combined. The impact our diet has on the planet can no longer be ignored.
“It is essential that world leaders explicitly acknowledge and recognise their responsibility to mitigate the impacts of animal agriculture on the planet, and pledge action.”