Cows cattle

Meat and dairy production needs a ‘radical rethink’, according to a new Friends of the Earth report

Friends of the Earth has urged a “radical rethink” on meat and dairy production in an inflammatory new report, claiming the sectors are having an “increasingly devastating” impact on the environment. 

The Meat Atlas report, published in partnership with the Heinrich Boell Foundation, warns that the world’s industrialised production system is untenable as it depends on scarce land and water resources.

“Diet is no longer a private matter. Every time we eat, we are making a political choice, and we are impacting upon the lives of people around the world, the environment, biodiversity and the climate,” said Adrian Bebb, senior food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

The report – which pulls together statistics on meat and dairy consumption from existing sources –highlights that worldwide agriculture accounts for 70% of available freshwater, one third of which goes towards raising livestock. 

Meanwhile, it takes 15,500 litres of water to produce one kilogramme of beef, the same amount required to produce 12kg of wheat or 118kg of carrots.

The report aimed to “catalyse the debate over the need for better, safer and more sustainable food and farming”, its authors claim.

Friends of the Earth UK has used the report’s findings to call on UK ministers to approve the sustainable diet principles outlined in the government’s Green Food Project, published in July 2012.

“The time for debate is over – the government must develop a strategy to ensure the UK has clear policies at local, national and EU level to help farmers produce livestock more sustainably,” said Vicki Hird, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth.