Food activists are taking legal action against the government for failing to support the transition to a low-carbon diet by encouraging people to eat less meat.
Global Feedback, which campaigns for renewable food, says the government’s food strategy fails to take into account advice that reducing meat and dairy consumption levels is critical to achieving the country’s net-zero targets.
The Food Strategy was published in June amid a range of criticism, including from experts the government has tasked with helping to craft it.
In a letter before the claim, which is required to seek judicial review, the notes cite the advice of Henry Dimbleby, the businessman behind fast food chain Lyon, who in a government-commissioned report called for a 30% cut in meat and dairy consumption by 2032.
It also highlights advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent public body, that the shift in the diet is “particularly important,” and calls for a 20% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030 as part of a “balanced net zero path scenario.” .
The comment letter reads: “The Food Strategy did not mention, nor did it show any consideration, the clear advice on reducing meat and dairy from both the CCC and [Dimbleby’s] independent review; Or even any consideration of the matter they have raised.”
Agricultural production of meat – especially ruminants such as cows and sheep – and dairy products is a major source of methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It is removed from the atmosphere much faster than carbon dioxide2making methane-reduction measures one of the most effective short-term measures that can be taken to mitigate climate collapse.
Karina Millstone, Executive Director of the Feedback Program, said: “By failing to take any action whatsoever to support a reduction in meat and dairy, contrary to the advice of Henry Dimbleby and the Climate Change Committee, the government is committing to massive agricultural methane emissions.
“Instead of logging us all into climate chaos, we want the government to go back to the drawing board and produce the strategy we promised: a strategy that really delivers on climate and nature.”
Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Soil Society, said his organization is very supportive of the legal action, although it has no official role in it. But besides focusing on methane emissions from ruminants, Percival said action was also needed on industrial production of pork and chicken, which account for the majority of meat consumed in the UK.
The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs declined to comment.