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The food systems summit

Meat lobby pushes UN food summit to back factory farming
The food systems summit

A coalition of meat industry associations has pushed for the UN food systems summit (23 September) to boost global meat consumption and promote intensive livestock farming despite its environmental footprint, Unearthed has revealed.

The findings have prompted the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, to warn that powerful agribusiness interests could ‘dominate the discussion’, leading to disappointing outcomes.

Meat and climate

In a draft position paper prepared in June for the summit, a group of industry associations including the International Meat Secretariat and International Poultry Council called for the UN to support increased meat consumption worldwide.

It argued that ‘advances in intensive livestock systems’ would ‘contribute to the preservation of planetary resources’.

The associations wrote the paper in their capacity as key members of the summit’s ‘sustainable livestock’ cluster, a working group set up to recommend policies for the summit.

The document runs counter to calls by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for a reduction in meat consumption, particularly in rich countries, to tackle climate change.

The IPCC warned that a failure to switch to more sustainable land use could harm efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

‘What appears to have happened in its livestock strand is a microcosm of the tension at the heart of the food systems summit. Here was an opportunity to have a frank and difficult and public conversation about power dynamics in the food system, but the summit has failed to create a space to actually interrogate what the root causes of its problems are. I fear the outcomes will disappoint.

‘Food systems today are not sustainable, it’s not conscionable, and when you involve agribusinesses that have money and power in the determining of its future, they will inevitably dominate the discussion.’

UN special rapporteur on the right to food and independent adviser to the summit

‘A soapbox’ for propaganda

The UN food systems summit, which takes place in New York on 23 September, will make recommendations that are expected to shape government policies on food and agriculture around the world, and inform upcoming global agreements on climate change and biodiversity.

The draft paper, which promoted industry schemes and efficiencies rather than reductions in meat-eating in developed countries, went on to say: ‘Innovative methods in livestock can also address climate change both in mitigation and adaptation […] Livestock will provide solutions also for the challenges of today.’

‘This summit should be the moment when world leaders finally listen to the science and put humanity on a path to less meat, better health and a safer climate. Instead, it looks like the meat lobby has been allowed to hijack a key part of the process and turn it into a soapbox for industry propaganda. The science is crystal clear: we can’t tackle the climate crisis without cutting the amount of meat we eat. The increase in intensive farming the industry is lobbying for will only make the climate and nature crisis worse, and there’s no food security in a world ravaged by climate disasters. UN leaders should ignore the industry’s self-serving talking points and heed the best advice from their own scientists.’

Head of forests at Greenpeace UK

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