Climate change chief wants us all to become vegetarian

Lord Stern said meat puts pressure on the world's resources

People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.

In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: ‘Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.’

Direct emissions of methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. UN figures suggest that meat production is responsible for about 18 per cent of global carbon emissions, including the destruction of forest land for cattle ranching and the production of animal feeds such as soy.

Lord Stern, who is not a strict vegetarian himself, predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable. ‘I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating,’ he said. ‘I am 61 now and attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food.’

However, his remarks provoked anger from the farming industry. Jonathan Scurlock, of the National Farmers Union, said: ‘Going vegetarian is not a worldwide solution. It’s not a view shared by the NFU. Farmers in this country are interested in evidence-based policymaking. We don’t have a methane-free cow or pig available to us.’

On average, a British person eats 50g of protein derived from meat each day – the equivalent of a chicken breast or a lamb chop. This is a relatively low level for a wealthy country but between 25 per cent and 50 per cent higher than the amount recommended by the World Health Organisation.


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