A new report for the Committee on Climate Change published yesterday is urging the government to do more to promote vegan diets to help fight climate change – as Animal Rebellion protests continue this week.
The behaviour change paper, written by an Imperial College London academic Dr Richard Carmichael, recommends plant-based diets as one of the big three changes we must make, alongside lowering emissions produced by transport and heating.
It states that a shift to vegan diets is a “huge opportunity for consumers to reduce their carbon footprints and enjoy important health benefits for no additional cost”.
The report calls for a new regulation requiring that all public sector menus offer a vegan option that is available to anyone every day without special request.
The Vegan Society’s Catering for Everyone campaign is provided as an example of how to achieve this, because the campaign’s aim directly corresponds with this recommendation.
Mark Banahan, our Campaigns Manager, said: “Dr Carmichael’s detailed report makes a crucial recommendation to include vegan meal options as standard on public sector menus.
“Provision for vegans in this sector is currently lacking, with hospital patients and school children often going hungry, and our proposed legislation would assist in solving this problem.
“We hope that vegans and non-vegans alike will join us in urging institutions to provide healthy and sustainable vegan food for everyone.”
Dr Carmichael said in the report that the dietary aspect “has been neglected by climate policy” and called for “government support for farmers to shift from livestock to horticulture”.
He added that the government should be broadening choice rather than introducing restrictions – referring to a recent EU proposal to ban vegan products from using ‘meaty’ names.
Dr Carmichael said: “The science and the targets for Net Zero are clear and most people are willing to do their bit.
“This report suggests some practical ways in which barriers can be lowered and people enabled and encouraged to substantially reduce their contribution to global warming.
“[Providing vegan options] would not only cater to those already willing but unable to access plant-based meals but would allow others to try these foods and help to normalise low-impact diets.
“I hope we see some swift action from Government to start building up some momentum in new policy and public engagement, as time is running out.”
In the UK, 30% of all meals are provided through the education, healthcare and other government-funded institutions.
But while supermarkets and restaurants are responding to growing demand, schools, hospitals, prisons and other public-sector catering outlets do not routinely offer any purely plant-based menu options.
The report found that a shift to plant-based diets would deliver up to around a 73% reduction in diet-related emissions compared to current levels and would require 70-80% less farmland.
It said halving the consumption of meat, dairy and eggs in the EU would achieve a 25–40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
The livestock industry is especially high-emitting and accounts for an estimated 14.5% of all human greenhouse gas emissions globally.
The report noted that while aviation demand is growing, a proportion of the public have recently shown that they are increasingly interested in more sustainable diets and are ahead of government action and thinking.
The full report can be accessed here.