Vegans reply to UK Farmers
National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall highlights the need for sustainable agriculture, in the UK and around the world
(BBSRC Business, Summer 2009: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/publications/business/2009/summer/opinion_peter_kendall.html ).
As he implies, the UN forecast 9 billion humans worldwide by 2050. Mr Kendall emphasises that farmers are 'very much aware' of their responsibilities due to the converging population, climate and skills crises. He also notes that Northern Europe is 'relatively well placed' in terms of water and temperature, and states that 'it is not acceptable for the UK to focus on how to ensure it can import everything it needs'.
The Vegan Society agree with Peter Kendall that we in the UK "should be working hard now to be part of the solution to ‘feeding the nine billion’".
If we are to feed more people and reduce the global warming impact of agriculture a critical step is to reduce our consumption of animal products.
In the UK, vegan diets require only about one third of the water and land needed to produce meat-based diets .
DEFRA estimates that in terms of calorific requirements, UK agricultural land could produce more than enough food from arable production for the entire population .
This necessary shift towards plant-based diets will have a side effect that less animal manure will be available as a fertiliser. Simply replacing this with synthetic fertilisers would not be an ideal solution. This is due to high energy consumption in manufacture for nitrogen fertilisers and limited supply for some other fertilisers.
Sustainable and secure agriculture will need to find efficient ways of capturing nitrogen and returning other nutrients to the soil. Stock-free rotation methods have great potential to enable this. Some impressive demonstrations of these techniques exist such as Iain Tolhurst’s farm on the Hardwick Estate near Pangbourne in Berkshire. He has been demonstrating and exploring the commercial and environmental viability of stock-free farming there for twenty years. However these methods deserve much more attention and development effort if we are to achieve a sustainable and secure food supply for future generations.
The Vegan Society call on the BBSRC, the NFU and policy-makers to urgently research the most resource effective farming techniques that minimise greenhouse gas emissions. A shift to stock-free farming will benefit farmers, UK residents and undernourished people worldwide.
Nigel Winter, CEO The Vegan Society
Telephone: 0121 523 1730 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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1. Walsh S. using information from Williams AG. et al. Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities. Main Report. Defra Research Project IS0205. Bedford: Cranfield University and Defra; 2006 http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=IS0205_3959_FRP.doc (accessed 25 June 2009)
2. DEFRA Food and Farming Group. Ensuring the UK’s food security in a changing world. London: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; 2008 http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodrin/policy/pdf/Ensuring-UK-Food-Security-in-a-changing-world-170708.pdf (accessed 1 July 2009)