DEBATE: Should the government set guidelines on meat consumption to combat climate change?

Ban On British Beef Exports Is Lifted After A Decade
Cows, it seems, are worse for the planet than cars (Source: Getty)

Should the government set guidelines on meat consumption to combat climate change?

Ben Glover, a researcher at Demos, says YES.

Last week, the UN’s IPCC warned that to avoid disastrous levels of climate change we must make “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” – including cutting meat consumption.

That’s because livestock counts for about 15 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing more to climate change than transport. Cows, it seems, are worse for the planet than cars.

Government guidelines could help wean us off a diet that kills not just animals but the planet too. Modelled on the “five-a-day” campaign, these guidelines would nudge us away from meat towards more sustainable, plant-based options. Clear labelling of emissions on meat products would also give consumers the facts they need to make better choices at the checkout.

Nobody wants to rob the British public of their right to Sunday roast or a bacon sandwich in the morning. But without cutting back on meat, a blanket ban awaits us. That’s why meat lovers should embrace, not resist, a gentle nudge from the government towards a greener diet.

Read more: Bank of England: Insurers and banks must manage the climate change risks

Alex Deane, a Conservative commentator, says NO.

If we folded UK Plc overnight on the basis that our collective self-sacrifice would aid the fight against climate change, any benefit from our noble gesture would be overtaken in its entirety in a matter of days by the increased pollution emitted by our friends in China.

So let’s not pretend that less consumption of meat by individuals is about helping the environment – the impact is so infinitesimal as to be an unamusing joke – it’s about virtue-signalling and hair-shirted holier-than-thou-ness.

If the IPCC’s claim that we have 12 years to save the world has you worried, take comfort in the fact that such predictions are as reliable as Labour’s repeated 48 hours to save the NHS – in 2007, for example, the WWF warned that we had five years to rescue the planet.

You can do what you want, of course, and the ethical case for not eating animals is quite apart from the pseudo-climate argument (and perhaps rather more compelling). But don’t fall for the latest pretext for yet more government control of what we can do.

Read more: The business of tackling climate change

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