AHDB hit back at the claim, which was made in a recent BBC News story featured in its Science and Environment section. Similar comments were made during a BBC Panorama documentary, entitled ‘Climate change – what can we do?’ that aired in October last year.
In an open letter sent to the broadcasting company, AHDB chief executive Jane King questioned the evidence to substantiate the BBC’s claim and asked to review and share the data provided by the source.
“The article refers to two reports as evidence for this claim – ‘Special report on climate change and land’ by the International Panel on Climate Change and ‘Reducing environmental impacts through producers and consumers’, an Oxford University study,” said King.
No support to claims
“Neither of these two reports explicitly supports the claims made in this news article, primarily because they do not assess any other personal actions.”
King pointed to a recent report from the Committee on Climate Change, which found greenhouse gases produced by agriculture – 40% of which came from cattle and sheep – was just 9% of total UK emissions, less than half the amount produced by transport, at 34%.
She suggested structural changes to the transport and energy sectors would have a much more substantial impact on lowering the UK’s greenhouse gas impact.
“In light of this, it is my view that the BBC therefore cannot make the claim that modifying your diet to include less red meat is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact,” King added. “The article draws an unsubstantiated conclusion from the available evidence.”
“Assessing the environment impact of livestock production on greenhouse gas emissions alone is extremely simplistic and binary. As the positive impact grazing lands have on carbon sequestration, biodiversity, providing habitats and food sources for wildlife, all while utilising the swathes of agricultural land unsuitable for cropping are largely overlooked.”
The BBC has yet to respond to the AHDB’s letter.
Meanwhile, a Channel 4 documentary criticising the meat industry in the UK has failed to provide a convincing argument for ditching production and reducing consumption, according to the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers.