Food and Cuisine

Published on December 2nd, 2009 | by Guest Contributor


Britain Brings New Climate Change Recommendations on Meat to the Table

Governments around the world are issuing varying calls related to sustainability, but most of them focus on political and financial issues. Typically, governments don’t get involved in making food recommendations, but Andy Burnham, Britain’s Health Secretary is embracing the web that links food, sustainability, and personal health. Calling climate change a “very real and present danger” to health, he has issued an official government recommendation that Britons eat a third less meat.

Photo Credit: Digital Explorer Examining meat production and consumption in light of climate change and health issues

Examining meat production and consumption in light of climate change and health issues

Compare this to the U.S. government’s reluctance to make any kind of food recommendations beyond the vague food pyramid, and certainly a reticence to make recommendations that would reduce the profits of the meat and dairy industry. But making a recommendation that blends fighting climate change with what you eat at your dinner table is the kind of macro/micro perspective that will become more and more common as the world adapts to the imperatives of dealing with climate change.

The British government-backed report published in the Lancet medical journal asserts some stark statistics, claiming that worldwide meat production is estimated to account for 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions, and saying that reducing meat production and intake by a third would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but save 18,000 lives each year.

There is plenty of backlash from the farming world:

“Other governments that value their livestock production are looking at exciting and innovative ways to reduce agriculture’s environmental impacts while understanding the need to produce more food for an expanding global population,” says Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers’ Union.

“‘The car industry is praised for producing more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles rather than being told to cut production.”

Kendall’s comments cut to the heart of the issue: what role will governments play in making recommendations about how individuals lead their lives under the pressure to make a difference in climate change.

With Copenhagen on the horizon and these kind of imperatives becoming more and more real, look for the ethics of independence, responsibility and climate change pull up chairs to a new, possibly healthier and more vegetarian, table.

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