The anaerobic digestion industry has blasted claims that it supports factory farming by using animal waste to generate power.
Green energy company Ecotricity launched a vegan energy tariff earlier this week, saying it wanted to highlight that electricity and gas are often made using the by-products of the meat and dairy industries, including animal body parts.
According to Ecotricity Founder Dale Vince, who is also Chairman of vegan football club Forest Green Rovers: "It's a surprising and rather shocking new frontier for the issues of veganism and animal rights," he said. "It's not just the Big Six guilty of this – many independents and those who call themselves ‘ethical' or ‘green' are doing it too, rather shamefully."
Defending the use of animal products, Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association [ADBA], said: "Ecotricity's campaign serves to highlight the considerable waste generated by society today, which the anaerobic digestion industry recycles into valuable green energy and biofertilisers.
"We fully support the waste hierarchy and believe that as little waste as possible should be produced across all areas of society, including food waste and agriculture. In an ideal world, there would be no need for our industry.
"But where these wastes are produced - and they are, in huge quantities - it's critical that they are recycled through anaerobic digestion – which gets by far the most out of them compared to other waste treatment technologies - into renewable energy and soil-restoring biofertiliser rather than left wasted and untreated to release climate-change-inducing methane into the atmosphere.
"In the same way as recyclers of other materials such as paper, metal, or glass, anaerobic digestion is offering a solution to a problem we all create. Anaerobic digestion is there to make the best of agricultural and other organic wastes (such as sewage and food waste) where they do arise, not to cause them in the first place - and this is a hugely important distinction."
Ecotricity boss Dale Vince responded to ADBA claims, releasing his own statement. He said: "We have no argument with the points made by the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association. AD is a very good way to deal with waste, perhaps the best we have open to us.
"And likewise we believe that waste reduction is vital and that waste disposal should not make that more difficult by offering a commercial outcome for producing waste, that dis-incentivises waste reduction. But that is likely to be exactly what is happening.
"What we’ve sought to do this week is highlight something that millions of Britons will want to know and have a right to know - that animals are being used to make electricity and gas, and that this issue affects the majority of energy suppliers (by market share - some 60 percent of homes are affected)."
He went onto say that it is the root source of the waste - factory farming - that Ecotricity is opposed to. "It is an absurdly cruel practice and produces excrement and animal body parts in what the ABDA rightly describes as 'huge quantities'," he said.
"This creates the (huge) problem and it is this practice that we believe needs to stop. Our position as a company is that we will not buy power or gas from such sources, because to do so would support an industry that we are opposed to on ethical and environmental grounds.
"From our perspective simply claiming that this waste needs to be dealt with therefore it’s OK - is a weak defence for support of an unethical practice."