Henry Dimbleby, restauranteur and food writer, has been appointed as a food tsar by Environment Secretary Michael Gove. He will lead the first major review of the UK's food system in nearly 75 years.
Extraordinarily, nearly every one of Dimbleby's initial pronouncements is profoundly wrong, revealing that Mr. Gove either does not know his job or is determined to defend livestock farming and fishing despite a climate emergency having been declared.
Research ignored over reluctance to try veganism
Dimbleby has attacked the idea that giving up meat, fish and dairy products is a practical way to save the planet, describing such advice as 'prescriptive and nanny-state-ish', despite a welter of research to the contrary..
His reluctance to embrace veganism as the best solution to climate change reflects his own reluctance to stop eating animal foods rather than a genuine desire to find a solution to the impending environmental disaster caused by livestock farming. He's the wrong man for the job.
Whether you are looking at global warming, deforestation, loss of wildlife, water shortages, world hunger, rising sea levels or the ecological breakdown of our oceans… livestock farming is at the heart of all these problems – a fact Dimbleby fails to acknowledge.
He suggests that people choose meat of a better quality, for instance, even though there is insufficient land for more grass-fed cattle and other free range animals. He ignores the latest research from the University of Oxford, which looked at precisely this policy and said animal foods are still responsible for much higher impacts than plant foods.
By impacts they are referring to land use, greenhouse gas emissions, fresh water use, water pollution and acidification. Lead researcher, Joseph Poore, summed it up as follows: "A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth."
'Sustainable' meat isn't enough, says Oxford researcher
"Agriculture is a sector that spans all the multitude of environmental problems," Poore says. "Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy."
Dimbleby talks about developing genetically edited crops capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere to reduce the need for fertilizers but again he has not done his research.
Members of the UK Government Office for Science's Foresight Project on Global Food and Farming Futures predict that it will take more than 20 years' more research to create such crops and it's questionable whether such plants could ever be created.
We simply can't wait that long for action.
Veganism is the answer
Changing the way we farm animals will not be enough, a significant decrease in agricultural emissions can only be achieved by a reduction in demand for animal foods. Technologies for reducing emissions from livestock would, at best, cut them by less than 20 per cent. Dimbleby talks about using the best science has to offer but is failing to hear what the scientists are saying, either through ignorance or at the behest of Mr. Gove.
Research shows that if the world went vegan, in 2050 we would require less cropland than we did in 2000. In other words, if the whole world goes vegan, the projected global population of nine billion in 2050 could eat enough without another single tree being cut down. It's a no brainer!
His throwaway comment on how a vegan diet is not good for health reveals profound ignorance. It flies in the face of another huge body of research showing that on average, vegans weigh less, have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, have lower rates of heart disease and cancer than meat-eaters.
As childhood obesity reaches epidemic proportions in the UK, advising that we turn our backs on the one solution that would help them, that could significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and potentially stop climate change is so profoundly irresponsible that we can only speculate on why Mr. Dimbleby was appointed in the first place.