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On Earth Day, it’s worth considering how this year’s theme of ‘invest in our planet’ goes beyond financial markets.

The need for action to protect our planet has never been more evident, so rethinking all the ‘investments’ we make in our lives is more important than ever: what clothes we wear, the transport we take, and, of course, what food we eat.

One of the biggest investments we can make towards safeguarding our planet is eating less meat, which raises the question: why isn’t the government doing more to encourage this shift?

Livestock is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN – more than the entire aviation sector. A 2019 study from Oxford University found that 50g of red meat is responsible for at least 20 times as much greenhouse gas emissions and 100 times as much land use as a 100g portion of vegetables.

But government and industry are still not held properly accountable for their impact: the NHS Eatwell guide, for example, says nothing about high carbon-emitting foods like mince.

Reducing meat consumption in high-income countries by 50% could slash food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 73%, as found in a recent study published in Science. This staggering figure demonstrates how much impact an individual can make by simply altering their dietary habits.

It’s not just the environment that stands to benefit – meat consumption is linked to a range of negative public health outcomes, including heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Adults who eat just an additional 50g of processed red meat – that’s about two rashers of bacon – per day have a 41% higher chance of dying in a given year, according to the same Oxford study.

Thankfully, consumers are already looking for easy ways to shift their dietary habits and eat more plant-based foods, and it’s now easier than ever to find plant-based alternatives to meat, from burgers to sausages and even seafood.

This growing demand is creating a ripple effect throughout the industry, with many retailers now offering an extensive range of plant-based options. At Allplants, our mission is to inspire everyone to eat more plants, by proving plant-based eating can be easy, convenient, and delicious.

Over 60% of the public still believe eating a plant-based diet comes with compromises [Attest survey, November 2022]. Manufacturers need to show that the transition to plant-based eating doesn’t have to be this way.

Whilst we’re seeing more and more individuals consciously choosing to put more plants on their plates, at the end of the day, it’s those in power who hold the most responsibility to educate and encourage the benefits of plant-based eating for the health of both people and the planet. If governments incentivised a shift towards more plant-based eating, this wouldn’t just lead to positive health outcomes but also help them achieve their net zero ambitions.

This doesn’t even mean cutting animal products entirely – simply making more plant-based swaps is still going to have a major net benefit. More needs to be done to encourage individuals to make these swaps, not to mention equipping them with the confidence to make choices around plant-based foods without feeling overwhelmed and underinformed.

The UK government is still subsidising the meat industry. Why aren’t they instead investing in public awareness campaigns that promote plant-based diets, and the environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption?

They should look at offering tax incentives to food companies that prioritise plant-based products, and create regulations that require restaurants and food retailers to disclose the environmental impact of the food they serve. New post-Brexit agricultural subsidies must encourage the production of more sustainable and plant-based foods, while also investing in research and development.

Ultimately, eating less meat is one of the best investments individuals and governments can make in the future of our planet. With so much at stake, it’s time for those in power to take action and really look at what’s on their plate.