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Feedback takes UK Government to court over lack of action on meat and dairy in the food strategy

Sustain member Feedback says government failed to take into account environmental advice from its own climate change committee and its adviser Henry Dimbleby in the food strategy for England.

Beef steak. Credit: Pexels

Beef steak. Credit: Pexels

Feedback has launched a legal challenge against the Government for lack of proposals to cut meat and dairy in the food strategy, arguing it breaks laws, including the Climate Change Act. Lawyers acting for Feedback said the government had failed to take into account environmental advice from its own climate change committee and its adviser Henry Dimbleby in the food strategy for England, which was published in June 2022.

The Committee on Climate Change and the National Food Strategy led by Henry Dimbleby both pushed for reductions in meat consumption of between 20 and 30%, and debate continues on how this can be implemented. 

In a piece published in the Financial Times, Rowan Smith, a solicitor at Leigh Day which is acting for Feedback in the case, commented: “Our client believes that there is something inherently wrong with the government promising to address carbon emissions as part of its food strategy, but then omitting any action on one of the biggest contributors to the problem, namely meat and dairy. The legal case focuses on the government’s failure to take into account expert and independent advice. What is the value in having that advice, if the government can effectively ignore it? Our client hopes to test these arguments in court.”

One argument in the case is that environment secretary George Eustice breached the Climate Change Act by failing to ensure the food strategy heeded advice from the climate change committee, which was aimed at enabling it to meet carbon reduction targets.

Feedback’s executive director Carina Millstone said:

“Rather than outlining plans to support the public and farmers in making the shift to low-carbon foods as promised, the food strategy blithely ignored the meat and dairy question altogether.”

The government has three weeks to submit a summary of its response to the judicial review claim.

Climate and nature co-ordinator at Sustain Ruth Westcott said:

"The Government's wilful ignorance of the science and their own advisors on food and climate change is staggering and dangerous. Emissions from food and farming swallow up our entire carbon budget and industrialised animal farming is the main source of pollution in our rivers and the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. We can't just tell people what not to eat - we need to make good choices easy and affordable. At the moment, healthy diets that are also good for the planet are out of reach of too many.

"The Government needs to ensure that meals served in the public sector, restaurants and the high street reflect the Eatwell Guide. Retailers must ensure their ranges are better, with voluntary targets replaced by mandatory ones if change isn't forthcoming. The proliferation of misleading meat advertising needs to be tackled, and we need to halt the expansion of factory farming in the UK."

For tickets to Sustain's summit to discuss meat, dairy and the climate and nature emergency, please click here.

 

Published 25 Aug 2022

Climate change and nature: Sustain has taken a keen interest in the rapidly accumulating evidence about the effect of food and farming on climate change and nature, as scientific evidence emerges that our food system is a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.

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