The British Parliament was recently presented with evidence from the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee stating that a reduction of meat in our daily diet would be beneficial to public health and the health of the environment at large.
The committee’s conclusions stem from research published by esteemed medical journal The Lancet, in association with EAT, an independent nonprofit organisation based in Oslo “dedicated to transforming our global food system through sound science.”1 The Lancet is an established and well-respected medical journal with a commitment to “applying scientific knowledge to improve health and advance human progress.”2
The EAT-Lancet report brings together the research of 30 leading scientists in a consensus that advocates for a ‘planetary health diet’ in order to improve global health and mitigate climate change. The diet entails “substantial shifts toward mostly plant-based dietary patterns”3 and, more specifically, an increase in the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, along with a reduction in the global consumption of red meat.4
Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Advisor in the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Advisor,gave evidence in support of the EAT-Lancet report, with Vallance stating: “The ability to reduce meat and increase plant-based things does entirely align with the environmental agenda and is one that I think is the right direction to push in. It is already happening and I think there is some movement there.”5
MEAT INDUSTRY PUSHBACK
The legitimacy of the Environmental Audit Committee’s evidence was questioned in the online publication Food Manufacture, in which the Chief Executive of the British Meat Processors Association challenged the idea that plant-based proteins could “meet the nutritional needs of a growing UK population”6 and also suggested that meat and dairy “should continue to form part of a healthy balanced diet.”7
However, as the EAT-Lancet report describes, there is considerable evidence to show that a plant-based diet is better for the health of humans and the planet. In his evidence to British Parliament, Boyd stated that “Meat production does […] produce greenhouse gases and has other significant effects on the environment through the release of nitrates, for example, and deforestation of tropical landscapes because of the need to grow cattle.”8
Valance added that an effective food strategy “should absolutely cover issues of consumption and how that consumption is modified,” stating that the consideration of factors such as “nutritional quality” and “production sustainability” is vital in order to create “a holistic, systems-based food strategy for the future.”9
A MULTIPROBLEM SOLUTION
At ProVeg, we promote the transition to a plant-based diet as a solution to many of the world’s most pressing challenges, including human and environmental health. For this reason, we firmly support the transformation of the food system promoted in the EAT-Lancet report and the evidence presented by the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee.
|1.||↑||https://eatforum.org/about/who-we-are/ (30 April 2019)|
|2.||↑||https://www.thelancet.com/about-us (1 May 2019)|