British barrister Michael Mansfield recently proposed a ban on eating meat because of the huge impact of animal agriculture on the planet. He claimed that it was doing so much damage to that it could be categorized as ‘ecocide’.

He added: “I think when we look at the damage eating meat is doing to the planet, it is not preposterous to think that one day it will become illegal.” These comments were sure to raise blood pressure as much as a diet of red meat and cheese, but the idea of ‘ecocide’ resonates with many in the environmental movement. Ecocide was defined by the late Polly Higgins QC, another barrister and life-long environmental campaigner, as: ‘damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, such that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or will be severely diminished.’

These comments were sure to raise blood pressure as much as a diet of red meat and cheese, but the idea of ‘ecocide’ resonates with many in the environmental movement. Ecocide was defined by the late Polly Higgins QC, another barrister and life-long environmental campaigner, as: ‘damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, such that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or will be severely diminished.’

Clearly the impacts of global agriculture fit this definition and there is now strong evidence that animal products are the primary driver of this destruction.

The higher impacts of animal products are inescapable as they are driven by the inherent inefficiency of raising animals for consumption. Most of the calories consumed by animals are used up in metabolism and do not end up as usable protein. This means that vast areas of land are used to grow crops for animal feed and for grazing pasture, driving habitat destruction and reducing available land to grow plants for human consumption. Recent research has suggested that pasture-fed animals emit more gases than intensively farmed animals, resulting in a catch 22 for the industry.

Despite a rise in the number of vegans, vegetarians and ‘meat reducers’, there has been no decline in the overall consumption of animal products. So whatever the merits of a ban on meat, with consumption levels still so high, it is not on the horizon.

Through the Grow Green campaign, The Vegan Society aims to promote economic measures that target food production, including changes to agricultural subsidies to better reflect the environmental impacts from different forms of agriculture. But this approach must also address imported animal products to avoid unfairly penalising UK farmers through the replacement of their products with even higher impact products from abroad.

But changes in production must be matched by a shift in demand. The last few years have seen an increase in the availability of vegan options at restaurants and in supermarkets but there’s a long way to go before a vegan diet matches a non-vegan diet for convenience. Government should support this transition by guaranteeing at least one nutritionally balanced and sustainable plant-based option on the menu in every public sector institution.

These policy changes would put more power in people’s hands and address the issues of cost and convenience which have stalled a more rapid transition to plant-based diets. In the meantime, individuals can make a huge difference by transitioning away from animal products and joining The Vegan Society’s campaign to Plate Up for the Planet.

Original article written by Tim Thorpe, Campaigns and Policy Officer at The Vegan Society

Original source: https://greenworld.org.uk