Time to fix the food chain and prevent further rainforest destruction

Surprisingly the meat and dairy industry produces around 18 per cent of the world's climate-changing gases; cows, pigs and chickens in our factory farms are pumped full of high-protein feed to make them grow quickly and produce large yields.

Our guest writer is Robert Flello, Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South

Private Members Bills are a unique opportunity for MPs to make sure important issues get the debate they deserve in the House of Commons. After being drawn second in the Private Members Bill ballot, I thought long and hard about the bill I wanted to sponsor.

Like many people, I have been concerned about global warming for years. I was surprised to find out that it is not just planes, cars and factories that pump polluting emissions into the air – surprisingly the meat and dairy industry produces around 18 per cent of the world’s climate-changing gases.

And when I learned from Friends of the Earth that a hidden chain links animals in British factory farms to rainforest destruction in South America, I decided my bill should do something about it. Cows, pigs and chickens in our factory farms are pumped full of high-protein feed to make them grow quickly and produce large yields.

Much of this protein comes in the form of genetically modified soy, mostly shipped in from South America, where forests are felled and wildlife-rich grasslands destroyed to make way for vast soy plantations.

Communities who have lived on the land for generations are forced out. And the environmental impacts are devastating. So far 90 per cent of the South American Atlantic Forest – home to the black-faced lion tamarin monkey and the white-collared kite – has been destroyed, much of it for soy farming to produce animal feed.

This far-away problem also affects the UK, as destroying rainforest increases the amount of climate-changing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with terrible risks for us all. Climate change will lead to floods, heat waves, sea level rises, species dying out and new pests moving in – all of which will seriously affect the world’s ability to feed itself.

If current trends continue, soy farming and cattle ranching alone will destroy 40 per cent of the Amazon Rainforest by 2050. But soy plantations in South America are dependent on, and driven by, factory farming in the UK and Europe – if we demand less soy it will help to protect rainforests and wildlife, and prevent dangerous climate change.

My Bill aims to reduce British meat and dairy factory farms’ dependence on South American animal feed, by changing the way we produce meat so it doesn’t have such a damaging impact. I’m advocating Government support for fair and planet-friendly farming, instead of spending more than £700 million of taxpayers’ money each year to prop up intensive factory farms.

Importantly, vital funding will also make life better for UK farmers by supporting feed production and pasture-based farming and protecting them from yo-yoing animal feed costs.

I enjoy a Sunday roast as much as anyone, and the Flello Bill is not about imposing vegetarianism on Britain. It’s a chance to take responsibility for the food we all enjoy and do our bit to stop global warming. That is why I am working with Friends of the Earth and other MPs across the House to lead the drive for planet-friendly farming that doesn’t destroy wildlife, rainforests and our climate.

• Visit www.fixthefoodchain.com to support the bill.

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