Farm groups have slammed CHANNEL 4 documentary Apocalypse Cow: How Meat Killed the Planet, after presenter and prominent farming critic George Monbiot claimed livestock farming was destroying the planet.
The programme, which aired on Wednesday evening (January 8), argued the biggest problem driving us towards global crises was how we feed ourselves, particularly on meat.
North Yorkshire livestock farmer and NFU board member Andrew Loftus, slammed Channel 4 for its ‘unfair vilification’ of livestock farmers, claiming the documentary failed to understand the ‘huge contribution’ livestock grasslands make to the environment and the climate.
“Farming is a relatively small producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. According to recent UK Government statistics, it emits only 10 per cent of the UK’s GHG emissions.
“Our livestock farmers do not cut down rainforests, but plant thousands of trees and hedgerows promoting greater biodiversity than any other form of food production, including vegetable growing.
“Put simply, we do not hate the environment - we cherish it and rely on it,” he said.
Taking to Twitter, AHDB said: “There is a lot of talk at the moment about sustainable food and the impact eating red meat has on the environment.
“Grazing cattle and sheep aid biodiversity, with British beef and sheep farming helping to provide 19,000 hectares of wildflowers – aiding the recovery of our bee population.”
National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker criticised Channel 4 for the way in which sheep farming was ‘denigrated’.
“Sheep farming is one of the most sustainable ways of food production and produces quality meat and fibre from little more than vegetation,” he said.
Mr Loftus reinforced these concerns when addressing the likely nutritional challenges faced by people who consume a vegan diet.
He added: “Red meat protects our health with vital proteins, micro-nutrients, minerals and long chain fatty acids.
“These nutrients, proteins and minerals play an important part in our diet, not least in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. A shortage of which can cause irreversible stunting and impaired brain function.
“If we really want to make a difference to the health of ourselves and our planet, then we should pursue a balanced diet featuring locally-sourced, British beef and lamb.”
Martin Cohen, visiting lecturer of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire echoed this, branding Mr Monbiot’s vision to introduce ‘farm free food’ grown in labs as ‘simply ridiculous’.
“His concept of lab-created protein is a kind of nineteenth century idea of food as made of a handful of chemicals.
“We have been here before, with the Oxo beef drink that was supposed to replicate all the goodness of meat, but in fact contained little or no nutrients.
“Food is more complex than Mr Monbiot allows, and by pretending otherwise he is simply the PR arm of corporate food manufacturing," he said.
Mr Monbiot also came under fire for attacking subsidies allocated to farmers, after he claimed ‘tax payers’ money’ was being used to ‘prop up an industry that is destroying our life support systems.’
Mr Loftus said: “UK farmers receive Government subsidies, just like farmers in all other developed countries. Most reinvest this money into maintaining and improving our nation’s landscape.
“In 2017, 35,000 schemes were in place with farmers in England aimed at boosting biodiversity and enhancing the environment.”