Saturday, December 2, 2023

Veganism and Sustainability in the News: Autumn 2020

A roundup of some of the headlines and news stories from the past 3 months.

World losing its appetite for meat

Per-capita consumption of meat is set to fall by almost 3% in 2020 according to the latest Food Outlook Report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.  A number of factors are contributing to the change.  People eat more meat when they dine out, so restaurant shutdowns have reduced demand.  About 2.2 million restaurants worldwide could close, according to consulting firm Aaron Allen & Associates. Consumers are also cutting down on grocery bills as many have either lost jobs or income as a result of the lockdown.  Coronavirus outbreaks in meat-plants also created supply problems that resulted in less meat eating.

It is not clear how long this trend will last, but consumers may simply get used to having less meat as a result of the pandemic.  Millions of people are also eating more plant-based proteins due to concern for the environment and animal welfare.

In China there has been a 5% per capita slump in pork consumption.  In the EU, pork consumption is expected to fall to a seven-year low in 2020, with beef and chicken also hitting lows.  The pandemic is also predicted to continue to inflict heavy damage on seafood markets.  Fishing fleets are lying idle and aquaculture producers have drastically reduced their stocking targets.

Surge Campaign to Transition the UK to a Plant Based Agricultural System

Animal activism group Surge is asking the UK Government to provide support to farmers to enable them to transition away from animal agriculture and to the production of arable crops, pulses and produce for human consumption, or re-wild/reforest their land as part of ‘carbon farming’ initiatives. The group was co-founded in 2016 by Ed Winters (aka Earthling Ed). 

Please consider signing their petition or visit their ‘Milk, This is your Moment’ campaign website to read the letter to the UK Government in full.  They also have an information pack for farmers.

‘Endgame 2050’ is a stark warning

Endgame 2050 tries to imagine what living on this planet will be like many years from now if no action is taken to reverse climate change and restore biodiversity.  The film portrays ordinary people in the year 2050 coping with harsh situations like food and water shortages, runaway climate change, fishless oceans and civil unrest.  Featuring musician Moby along with leading scientists, ENDGAME 2050 emphasises the fact that unless we take responsibility and act urgently now, we are hastening our own destruction and that of virtually all other life on the planet.

The creator of the film, Sofia Pineda Ochoa, says:  “I wanted this film to clearly lay out the dire situation in which we now find ourselves, and the responsibility for these global problems that we all bear.  I think we owe it to the planet, other species, and ourselves to not bury our heads in the sand.”  You can watch the movie free on Youtube.

Factory Farming could be the straw that breaks meat industry’s back, says FAIRR

A report in June, 2020 by the FAIRR Initiative found that more than 70% of the word’s biggest meat, fish and dairy producers were in danger of fostering future zoonotic pandemics owing to lax safety standards, closely confined animals and the overuse of antibiotics.

The report graded 44 of the world’s 60 largest meat, fish and dairy companies as ‘high risk’.  No companies were graded as ‘low risk’.  Their poor performance across a set of seven criteria that are vital to preventing future zoonotic pandemics – including worker safety, food safety, deforestation and biodiversity management, animal welfare and antibiotic stewardship – demonstrates that intensive animal production is at serious risk of creating and spreading a future pandemic.

The FAIRR investor network seeks to raise awareness of the environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities caused by intensive animal production.  Established by the Jeremy Coller Foundation, the FAIRR Initiative is a coalition of investors who collectively manage $6.5 trillion in assets.  “Factory farming is both vulnerable to pandemics and guilty of creating them. It’s a self-sabotaging cycle that destroys value and risks lives” said Coller. 

2020 set to be watershed in shift from animal to plant-based proteins

Another report from FAIRR states that “2020 is set to be a watershed in the shift from animal proteins towards plant-based and new protein sources”, stating that investments in plant-based proteins have already reached $1.1billion in the first half of 2020, almost double that of 2019.  But this is still a tiny proportion of the $1 trillion meat market.

The report says that many companies such as Tesco, Nestle and Unilever now have dedicated teams focusing on plant-based products.  Tesco and Unilever achieved top ‘pioneer’ status as best placed to benefit from the growing meat alternative market.  These companies were praised by FAIRR’s investors for their commitment to shifting food portfolios to more sustainable protein sources. Unilever has invested $94 million in a new innovation centre housing 500 employees with a focus on plant-based innovation for brands like Knorr and Hellmann’s.

New documentary links Amazon fires, deforestation and animal agriculture

A ground-breaking new documentary that links the Amazon fires and deforestation to animal agriculture has been released.  Takeout is produced by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Michal Siewierski and produced by celebrity singer Moby.

The film features interviews with renowned scientists, doctors, politicians, and climate advocates.  It aims to expose the real reasons behind the Amazon forest fires and the alarming rate of deforestation in Brazil – the world’s largest exporter of beef.

World treating symptoms not cause of pandemic

A new UN report warns that further virus outbreaks will emerge unless governments take active measures to prevent other zoonotic diseases from crossing into the human population.  The report, entitled Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, is a joint effort by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

It identifies seven trends driving the increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases, including increased demand for animal protein, a rise in intensive and unsustainable farming, the increased use and exploitation of wildlife, and the climate crisis.

“The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.  “Pandemics are devastating to our lives and our economies, and as we have seen over the past months, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most. To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment.”

The report identifies practical steps that governments can take to prevent future zoonotic outbreaks.  These include:

  • Incentivizing sustainable land management practices and developing alternatives for food security and livelihoods that do not rely on the destruction of habitats and biodiversity.
  • Supporting the sustainable management of landscapes and seascapes that enhance sustainable co-existence of agriculture and wildlife.
  • Operationalizing the One Health approach in land-use and sustainable development planning, implementation and monitoring, among other fields.

Canada invests $95 million in plant-based production facility

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invested $95 million in a facility which aims to ‘redefine plant-based protein’.  The money has been given to Merit Functional Foods by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as a 10-year interest-free loan.  The company currently produces plant-based protein from peas and canola and hopes to create 175 new jobs over the next three years.

At a press conference, Trudeau said: “As people around the world start eating more plant-based food products, we have an opportunity to bring together innovation in Canada and Canadian crops, and a chance to create good, well-paying jobs.  This facility will be a world leader in plant-based proteins and will create good jobs in a fast-growing field.  And by using 100% Canadian inputs, we will also support the farmers who produce canola and yellow peas used in Merit’s products.”


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