Government taken to court over meat and dairy emissions

Green campaign group Feedback has taken the government to the Court of Appeal claiming that it has acted unlawfully by failing to implement measures to reduce production and consumption of meat and dairy.

At a hearing on 16 June, lawyers representing the claimant, Global Feedback, argued that the Defra secretary was “required” to include advice on reducing meat and dairy production in order to reduce emissions as part of the department’s Food Strategy.

Following the hearing, the three judges ruled that the application could proceed and granted permission to apply for judicial review.

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Senior president of tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom, said this would allow the matters raised to be fully debated before the court.

“The issue of climate change itself and the steps to be taken to achieve net zero are in themselves matters of public interest,” he added.

A day-and-a-half of proceedings are due to be arranged in the autumn.

Discussions in court

The Climate Change Act was debated, with the plaintiffs arguing that Section 13 of the Act requires the Defra secretary to prepare policies that will enable the carbon budgets set under the Act to be met.

An independent review into the Food Strategy by Henry Dimbleby was also discussed, which stated that one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions and free up land for nature is to cut back on animal proteins.

Agriculture accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, though that is much lower than the global average across both livestock and dairy.

Rowan Smith, acting on behalf of Feedback, said: “It would completely undermine the effectiveness of the Climate Change Act, and set a bad precedent for other policies, if the government could arbitrarily choose when and by whom that duty can be discharged.

“Our client has held the government to account on its promise that the Food Strategy would contribute to meeting the carbon budgets.”

Soil Association

The Soil Association backed the court action by Feedback, urging government to act on diets with less but better meat and ensure farmers producing food using “nature friendly” practices, such as organic methods, are paid properly.

Rob Percival, Soil Association head of food policy, said: “The Climate Change Committee has called for government action on diet change, supporting people to reduce consumption of all meat.

“While the spotlight often falls on red meat, we seriously need to talk about intensively farmed poultry and pork.”

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