Farm groups have criticised former Defra chief scientist Professor Sir Ian Boyd for saying people will have to cut down on eating red meat if the UK is to meet its 2050 net zero emissions target.
Sir Ian claimed climate change policies after Brexit will ‘alter the landscape more than most people expect’, with more trees and hedges and far fewer grazing animals.
Speaking to BBC News, he said: “What I see is a farming system which is very inefficient and in need of very significant transformation.
“I see a significant part of that coming from the way we farm and consume livestock. If we want to move towards net zero in the UK, changing our approach to red meat consumption is an essential part of that.”
Sir Ian went on to suggest it would be more carbon-efficient to raise sheep and cattle on intensive, high-tech farms than extensive pastures, because fewer methane emissions would be produced.
NFU president Minette Batters told Farmers Guardian the union had worked with Sir Ian for the past seven years and ‘understood’ he had different opinions on key issues.
Glyn Roberts, president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), went even further, branding Sir Ian’s comments ‘sweeping and misleading’, and pointing out the transport and energy sectors contributed 90 per cent of Wales’ total emissions, compared to 10 per cent from agriculture.
He said: “The media’s appetite for focusing on [red meat] is not only distracting attention away from the discussions we should be having about the challenges we face, it is actually leading people to make decisions which are bad for our global environment and biodiversity.
“Yes, we need to make improvements, as does every other industry, but the suggestion that farming more intensively is the way forward should appal people, especially given figures from intensive systems in other countries are being used to mislead consumers about the true impact of livestock production in Wales and elsewhere in the UK.”