Calls to cut down meat consumption and ‘declare a timeframe for peak livestock’ have been blasted as a ‘misguided and meaningless tactic’ for tackling climate change.
The letter, penned by 50 global scientists to academic journal Lancet Planetary Health, suggested livestock production would not increase after the 2030 date to ‘tackle the climate emergency’.
Researchers said reducing intake of meat and dairy and instead eating plant-based foods would be the ‘best option’ for storing carbon.
University of Aberdeen professor Pete Smith said: “Ruminant meat is 10-100 times more damaging to the climate than plant-based food.
“We need to transition away from a dependence on livestock. Livestock numbers need to peak very soon and thereafter decline substantially.”
He added the transition would need to be ‘managed fairly’ to allow a shift in diet and ‘for farmers, producers and agri-food chains to diversify’.
But AHDB said the argument rested on the ‘false premise’ that increased production would mean more animals and increased carbon emissions.
Genetic improvements and management efficiencies have actually meant flock and herd numbers have not risen in direct correlation to production.
Between 1990 and 2017, production inceased by four per cent for meat, eggs and milk at UK level, at the same time as greenhouse gas emissions for these foodstuffs dropped by 20 per cent.
AHDB head of market specialists for livestock and dairy Chris Gooderham said: “What this letter fails to recognise is food production and animal numbers do not go hand in hand, so the argument is flawed.
“Any cap on production would be a misguided and meaningless tactic for tackling climate change.
“Our farmers need support to further improve productivity and reduce their carbon footprint while continuing to produce vital, nourishing food for a growing population.”