A roundup of some of the headlines and news stories from the past 3 months
by Bronwyn Slater
Record breaking Veganuary sign-ups for 2021
A recording-breaking 582,538 people have signed up to Veganuary this year. The campaign challenges people to eat vegan during the month of January. This year’s participants came from 209 countries and territories around the world. Veganuary’s director of communications said the rise in this year’s numbers was partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In conjunction with Veganuary, several vegan meat brands expanded their offerings and have seen sales spike. The managing director of the Meatless Farm company said sales were up 111%. Plant-based brand Squeaky Bean launched several meat alternatives during January which it says were a huge success, with total sales up 222% compared with January last year.
EU urged to reject ‘dairy’ censorship on vegan products
An online petition urging the EU to reject amendment 171, aka the dairy ban, has (at the time of writing) obtained a staggering 303,450 signatures.
If adopted, the amendment would prohibit descriptions such as ‘yogurt-style’ and ‘cheese-alternative’. It could also prevent companies from using packaging such as butter blocks and milk cartons. Companies could even be prevented from using photos of their own products on their packaging.
EU politicians including Francisco Guerreiro and Sylwia Spurek have condemned the ban. Said Spurek: “Investing in a plant-based future is the only way forward. To tackle the climate crisis and safeguard animal rights and human health the EU must support this process, not impede. Consumers want more plant-based products. We can’t and shouldn’t delay necessary changes.”
Proveg, who created the petition, said: “Altogether, it would be a huge reversal of the work done so far to meet the EU’s own goals on public health and sustainability, as agreed under the terms of the Paris Agreement. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, it’s a highly irresponsible move.”
Number of slaughtered animals surpasses 80 billion
The number of slaughtered animals has surpassed 80 billion for the first time. The figures, from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAOSTAT), are for land animals for the year 2019. This is an increase of more than 3.5 billion land animals compared with the previous year. The world’s population has increased by about 82 million people over the same period. Thus, on average, people are eating more meat per capita than ever, at around 10.5 animals per person per year on average.
2 million kangaroos slaughtered every year for football boots
Nike have come under fire for their use of kangaroo leather in the making of football boots. 2 million kangaroos are slaughtered for leather in Australia each year. Using spotlights and night-vision rifle scopes, hired guns kill entire kangaroo families in the dead of night so they can sell the skins to the world’s best-known athletic shoe company.
Adidas have recently stated that they will cut back on kangaroo leather use by 98%, and Puma have said they are exploring more non-animal material. There is mounting pressure from consumers to end the use of kangaroo skin, with many clothing manufacturers such as Versace, Prada and Gucci also committing to going K-leather free.
30% of the Entire Planet Supports Plant-Based Diet in UN Climate Poll
The results of the UN People’s Climate Vote were published in January 2021. The initiative, which was begun in 2020 in partnership with various NGOs and Oxford University, had 1.2 million respondents across 50 countries. It is the largest ever survey of public opinion on climate change. Two-thirds of all respondents believe that climate change is a global emergency.
The poll revealed that 30% of people support the promotion of plant-based diet as a climate policy. The figure is as much as 42% in developing states and 33% in high-income countries.
Brits want ban on factory farms over pandemic threat
According to a poll commissioned by animal charity Viva! almost 9 in 10 British people want the Government to introduce an immediate ban on intensive farming. The OnePoll survey of 2,000 UK adults revealed that 85% of people want to see the end of factory farms amid concerns over potential zoonotic diseases.
Around two-thirds of farmed animals are factory farmed worldwide every year – totalling 50 billion. 3 in 4 of the world’s viruses and diseases originate in animals. Intensive farms are a perfect breeding ground for viruses as the animals are packed so closely together.
Experts at the European Food Safety Agency agree that animals reared in high-stress environments such as factory farms are more likely to contract viral infections, some of which can be passed on to humans.
Huge health benefits from climate action
A report published in December, 2020 by the Lancet shows how millions of lives lost annually to air pollution and unhealthy diets could be saved if countries cut emissions in line with the Paris agreement. The report entitled ‘Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change’ assessed the health benefits of meeting climate targets in nine countries, including the UK, US and China.
The report states that globally, diet and weight-related risk factors have barely changed since 1990, accounting for 8.8 million deaths in 2017. In the same time period, emissions from livestock grew by 16%. There were almost a million deaths globally from excess red meat consumption in 2017. If people moved to a plant-based diet it would be possible to radically reduce livestock numbers, and hence their associated GHG emissions.
Across the nine nations studied, it was estimated that Paris-compliant policies could save 5.8 million lives due to better diet. Additionally, 1.2 million lives could be saved due to cleaner air resulting from lower CO2 emissions from sectors like transport, energy and industry. Lead author Ian Hamilton said: “The message is stark. Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year, the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health.”
Russia confirms first case of H5N8 Bird Flu passed to Humans
Russian officials say seven workers at a poultry plant have contracted the H5N8 variant of the avian flu virus. Reports say that the workers are now ‘feeling well’ and that adequate measures had been quickly taken to stop the disease from spreading.
H5N8 is another variant of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus which has a 60% death rate in humans. Avian flu can be present in wild birds, from where it can be spread to farmed poultry. If the virus starts to spread between humans the results could be catastrophic – far worse than anything we have seen with COVID-19.
The virus has infected poultry flocks in many countries over the past 10 years, resulting in the culling of millions of farmed birds. Countries affected include China, Korea, Africa and Russia and many European countries. An outbreak in the UK late last year resulted in the slaughter of 10,000 turkeys on a farm in Yorkshire, with the government ordering that all poultry flocks be kept indoors.