Vegetarian Diet Better for Environment, Says UK Climate Change Leader

October 28, 2009 Updated: November 16, 2009




LONDON—One of the UK's most prominent climate change experts, Lord Stern, has said a vegetarian diet is better for the environment.

Author of the 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, and former chief economist of the World Bank. Lord Stern believes that the Climate change conference in Copenhagen in December should call for prices of meat and other foods that contribute to climate change to increase.

“Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases," he said in an interview with The Times on Tuesday 27th October. "It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources.

“I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating."

Nearly one fifth of the world's current greenhouse gas emissions are produced by livestock – about 50 per cent higher than the level produced by all the vehicles in the world.

Lord Stern's comments were welcomed by some environmental and farming groups, but dismissed as over-simplistic and irresponsible by the the farmer's union in the UK.

"Cutting down on meat is a win-win for healthier people and a healthier planet", said Friends of the Earth's senior food campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, "but we also need the Government to make big changes to the way it's produced."

National Union of Farmers President Peter Kendall commented: "Livestock production is based on grassland which stores more carbon than other land use in England. Focusing on a single issue as a way of saving the planet is extremely iressponsible and likely to be counterproductive."

Compassion in World Farming said: "Reducing meat consumption in affluent nations will release land for growing food for people rather than feed for factory farmed animals or fuel crops to power our vehicles and it will reduce the emissions of some of the most noxious greenhouse gases."

"By reducing meat consumption and supporting higher welfare farming, we can help to revive the planet, restore dignity to farmers’ livelihoods and enable the animals themselves to lead lives of quality," said a statement on their website.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2006 concluded that worldwide livestock farming, including the destruction of forest land for cattle ranching and the production of animal feeds, generates 18 per cent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions. By comparison, it said, all the world's cars, trains, planes and boats accounted for a combined 13 per cent.