The Vegan Society has expressed its disappointment over the government’s Food Strategy Policy Paper. The document outlines a series of policies which aim to boost food security and accessibility while incentivising sustainable farming and healthy eating across England’s food and farming industries.
The Policy Paper responds to an independent and comprehensive review of the food system carried out late last year by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ non-executive director, and co-founder of restaurant chain Leon, Henry Dimbleby.
Among the Government’s measures are: transparency of industry practices around sustainability and animal welfare, funding for farming diversification and regenerative practices and to promote protein-alternative crops, with a strong emphasis on domestic food production – part of policymakers’ answer to a carbon crackdown.
But the Policy Paper, which was leaked across the media last week, has been widely criticised by environmental groups and experts for its failure to include targets for reducing dairy and meat consumption; something stressed in the earlier review and backed by The Climate Change Committee – an independent statutory body, established under The Climate Change Act. The strategy applies to England only since food is a devolved issue and both Wales and Scotland have their own national food and land management strategies.
The Vegan Society’s Campaigns, Policy and Research team has responded to the report’s “watered-down” approach.
Head of the department, Claire Ogley, said: "The government’s watered-down National Food Strategy for England Policy Paper falls worryingly short of the ambitions set out in the independent review last year and is hard to swallow. We urgently need radical whole system change to our diets in order to avert climate catastrophe. Only last week we heard from one of the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) expert reviewers that ‘global veganism is now a survival imperative’.
The Government has ignored recommendations from its own experts to set a target for reducing the consumption of meat and dairy, despite the undeniable links between animal farming and environmental damage. While it’s encouraging that the role of alternative proteins in rebalancing diets is recognised, much more is needed to support our world-leading innovative plant-based protein industry in the UK and to level the playing field for these businesses, ensuring they are not subject to unfair restrictions.
Funding for farmers to develop low carbon practices is a good start, however this must be accompanied by practical and financial support to enable those working with livestock to transition to more sustainable vegan-friendly forms of land management.
The Government recognises the need for healthier and more sustainable dietary choices but does not go far enough in addressing the role public sector procurement can have in ensuring this is achieved. Every public sector menu must be required to offer good quality, nutritious plant-based meals every day, ensuring that people are empowered to choose an option that is better for them, for animals and for the planet.”
While the strategy claims to want to encourage a “school cooking revolution” and develop a “strong food curriculum”, it makes no mention of including plant-based and vegan-friendly options in school canteens and menus across the public sector.
The Vegan Society’s current campaign to include at least one plant-based option in school canteens daily could help secure goals around health and sustainability, outlined in the Policy Paper. The society is backing a petition launched by a vegan parent, Aaron Browning, which has so-far gained nearly 21,400 signatures of its 100,000 milestone to have the petition considered for debate in parliament.
Claire Ogley added: “It’s disappointing to see the government miss this opportunity to enact the transformative change that we desperately need. The Vegan Society will continue to promote plant-based solutions and engage with government and parliament to make our food system more ethical, sustainable and healthier for all."
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