Intervene on meat, WWF tells government

By Carina Perkins

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Greenhouse gas

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released a report calling on the UK government take an active role in reducing meat consumption.

The report, produced by the Food Ethics Council (FEC), highlights the efforts already being made by industry to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of livestock products, but concludes that consumption must be addressed if the UK is to meet its emissions targets.

It states that government leadership is necessary to break the “deadlock”​ on the issue, which has arisen as a result of the complex issues surrounding livestock production and consumption.

“Recent calls for people to eat more ‘sustainably’ have put policy-makers and industry representatives in a difficult position. They often see such calls as misguided, anti-competitive and contrary to the public will,”​ said Anthony Kleanthous, senior policy adviser, Sustainable Business and Economics WWF-UK.

“They also point out the benefits and trade-offs associated with changes in consumption behaviour, particularly in relation to nutrition, social norms, aesthetics and economics.”

Government intervention

In order to provide a framework for a constructive dialogue between government and with industry, the report outlines a range of interventions which could change consumer behaviour, ranging from those that directly seek to influence consumer behaviour, to fiscal measures and policies that would result in higher prices for products that have higher emissions.

Suggested interventions include:

  • Public health campaign to reduce consumption of some livestock products on disease risk grounds
  • Campaign directly to promote lower impact diets by encouraging people to consume 'less but better' meat
  • Encourage people to substitute lower-impact livestock products
  • Extend nutrient profiling on advertising to children to restrict advertising for highly GHG-intensive or high environmental footprint foods
  • Work with retailers and caterers to increase the number of meat and dairy-free SKUs, recipe suggestions and promotions
  • Government explicitly reduces its own consumption of high environmental impact products, especially at public functions
  • Work with processors, caterers and retailers to reformulate food and meals to reduce their GHG intensity, including by reducing meat and dairy content
  • Introduce VAT-style taxes on the sale of GHG-intensive foods
  • Introduce a numerical or colour coded GHG labelling system on food products sold by retailers
  • Introduce a maximum standard for the GHG intensity of all foods

The WWF and FEC hope that the framework will enable the industry and government to agree on the importance of pursuing GHG emissions reductions through changes in consumption and move on to the crucial business of deciding how to achieve such reductions.

“This report provides a useful starting point for that process​,” said Mark Driscoll, head of WWF’s One Planet Food programme. “It doesn’t provide all the answers, but it will stimulate what we hope will be a positive, productive and open debate involving every rung of the food chain.”

The report, entitled ‘Livestock Consumption and Climate Change: A Framework for Dialogue’, was commissioned from the FEC as part of WWF’s One Planet Food programme.

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