Food charity challenges government failure to address sustainability of UK food system

22 June 2023, 09:33 AM
  • Feedback Global took to the Court of Appeal earlier this week, fighting against government inaction regarding their 2022 Food Strategy
Food charity challenges government failure to address sustainability of UK food system

The charity put forward the case that the government’s failure to adopt measures to reduce meat and dairy production and consumption in its Food Strategy published in June 2022 was arguably unlawful.

The Court of Appeal upheld their claim, and a full judicial review hearing will take place in the Court of Appeal in autumn 2023 to rule on the legality of the government’s Food Strategy. 

Speaking about the success of the hearing, Carina Millstone, executive director of Feedback Global, said, “We are thrilled to have won our appeal for a Judicial Review of the legality of the government’s Food Strategy. When the strategy came out, it was a real disappointment to many, as it failed to address critical issues such as childhood obesity, land use and biodiversity, and of course, climate change.”

A win for sustainable food and the climate
The livestock industry is responsible for about 14.5% of global emissions and, if current trends continue, the global livestock industry will be using up almost half the world’s 1.5°C emissions budget by 2030. This means tackling emissions from the food and farming sector is key for the government to meet climate targets

The Net Zero Strategy published in 2021 expressly stated that the Food Strategy would support the delivery of the Net Zero target, outlining how carbon budgets would be met in the food system. However, the Food Strategy neither addressed the emissions impact of meat and dairy, nor put in place policies for their mitigation.

As Carina explained, “The Climate Change Committee has been very clear that the government must address emissions from food and farming in the transition to a net zero economy, and yet the Food Strategy barely touched on climate change.

“More specifically, it ignored meat and dairy altogether, despite the Climate Change Committee repeatedly saying that a dietary shift away from animal source foods is a particularly important measure to curb emissions and warming. We want the government to listen to its own expert climate advisors, and this must mean some reduction in meat and dairy.”

Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Soil Association, agreed, “It is shameful that the government are ignoring the environmental impacts of meat and dairy, disregarding advice from the Climate Change Committee.

“The government should listen to its advisors. While red meat is often in the spotlight, chicken makes up almost half of all meat consumed in the UK.

“Industrially farmed chicken is a major climate issue, due to chemical fertiliser use and habitat destruction abroad which is driven by the production of chicken feed, especially in the Amazon. It also puts a terrible strain on British nature, leaking waste into our troubled rivers.”

Less but better meat and dairy
The charity is arguing for a reduction in meat and dairy production to improve sustainability in the food sector, which is good news for independent fine food retailers. 

Carina told Speciality Food, “It’s important to note that this means less and better meat and dairy, not none. It would make sense to first curb the most environmentally destructive meat and dairy production, especially intensive poultry or pork fed on animal feed linked to deforestation and land use change overseas, rather than smaller scale, high welfare meat and dairy produced as part of agroecological systems.”

Rob added, “Government must support a ‘less and better’ approach to meat and dairy, while also ensuring that farmers are paid properly for nature-friendly farming like organic. We support this legal action from Feedback and call on the government to take urgent action to protect British farming and nature.”

As champions of local, environmentally friendly meat and dairy, farm shops, delis and cheesemongers would benefit from government action to support these sustainable supply chains. 

“This will have a positive impact on retailers who are already supporting this approach and mean better-quality produce for shoppers,” Rob told Speciality Food.

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