Livestock is globally responsible for 18% greenhouse gas emissions by Kerry McCarthy
We asked Kerry McCarthy, the new shadow minister for the Enviroment to give us her comments and statistics of what is happening within the farming industry and the effect it is having on the rest of the world.
You are passionate about animal welfare, food waste and have been vegetarian for twenty years (vegan for 10) – so news of your election to parliament was hugely heartening. What is first on your agenda?
I’m keen to promote a more sustainable approach to farming, with the highest possible environmental and animal welfare standards. I do not think that moves towards intensive, industrialised farming offer the solution. I’ll also be defending the fox hunting ban and campaigning against the badger cull in favour of an evidence-based, humane approach to bovine TB.
Our demand for meat and dairy is taking a heavy toll on the environment. What can be done about it?
A United Nations report estimated that the livestock industry globally is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the transport sector, so any concerted effort to tackle climate change must include consideration of the livestock industry.
Some farmers, though, are very mindful of this and are working to reduce their environmental impact. For instance, I visited a cheesemaker and farmer who produces all his energy from renewable sources (solar panels and anaerobic digestion) and the farm re-uses waste water.
I do think a lot of people have got behind initiatives like Meet Free Monday or are just making a decision to eat less – better quality – meat.
Do you have any plans to make ‘higher welfare’ and organic meat both less expensive for customers and farmers?
Some farmers do adopt high welfare standards, and incur additional costs as a result, so it is important for them that customers know why their produce is more expensive. If you look at the Soil Association’s website you will see details of how many outlets are moving towards providing organic food, eg Ikea is cheap, but its food is organic.
How might you enforce stricter controls on the use of antibiotics in farming?
Excessive antibiotic use in animals – as well as in humans – is threatening a post-antibiotic future, where a strep throat could once again kill, or a caesarean could become deadly. But over the last year, total sales of antibiotics solely for food animals has increased. While the Government says it condemns routine preventative antibiotic use in groups of healthy animals, this is not happening in practice. I am currently looking into what action is necessary to ensure the principles of ‘responsible use’ of antibiotics in farms is translated into practice.
What are some of the positive changes you are seeing in the UK
For me personally, the increasing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets means I have a great choice of shops and cafes – in my local Bristol too! There’s also increasing awareness of food waste and opposition to the idea that our fruit and vegetables have to be a very specific size and shape.
Have you influenced the food choices of any of your colleagues in the House of Commons?
I certainly haven’t converted any of my colleagues, but the better choice of vegetarian/ vegan meals on the parliamentary estate may mean that they choose those options more often now.
As someone who is passionate about reducing food waste, what is your top tip for individuals?
A couple of years ago I was tasked with meeting the challenge of making sure I wasted no food over the course of a week, and wrote a blog on how I got on I would strongly recommend WRAP’s excellent Love Food Hate Waste campaign, which is a treasure trove of tips on reducing food waste. I introduced a Food Waste (Reduction) Bill earlier this year to help drive change across the whole supply chain.