A water board deleted a social media advert calling on people to ditch meat and save water after a backlash from angry farmers.
The advert, posted on the Dwr Cymru Welsh Water Facebook page by Welsh Water, encouraged people to go meat-free for one day a week. It featured the hashtag #watersavingweek.
It featured a picture of a pig being washed, and said: “Nearly one-third of agricultural water use is related to animal products. Try going meat-free for just one day.”
According to Welsh Water, the advert was part of UK campaign Water Saving Week, which is run by independent organization Waterwise.
According to waterfootprint.org, which describes itself as a ‘platform for collaboration between companies, organizations and individuals to solve the world’s water crises by advancing fair and smart water use’, animal products generally have a larger water footprint than crop products’ per ton of product.
“The same is true when we look at the water footprint per calorie,” the organization says. “The average water footprint per calorie for beef is 20 times larger than for cereals and starchy roots. When we look at the water requirements for protein, it has been found that the water footprint per gram of protein for milk, eggs and chicken meat is about 1.5 times larger than for pulses.
“For beef, the water footprint per gram of protein is six times larger than for pulses. In the case of fat, butter has a relatively small water footprint per gram of fat, even lower than for oil crops. All other animal products, however, have larger water footprints per gram of fat when compared to oil crops. From a freshwater resource perspective, it is more efficient to obtain calories, protein, and fat through crop products than animal products.”
But many people reacted angrily to the poster, including Welsh livestock farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, who said: “I wonder how much water is lost in leaks? And our vegetables and fruit need water too. The majority of our livestock drink water from natural sources. Who came up with these stats for D?r Cymru?”
Meat bosses from Welsh meat body Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) blasted the advert, saying that it used global figures that were ‘almost meaningless’ when taken ‘out of context’ and applied to countries with high rainfall like Wales.
“Estimates that it takes between 14,000 and 17,000 litres of water to produce a kilo of beef are misleading nonsense if taken out of context,” HCC Chief Executive Gwyn Howells told North Wales Live.
“This demand could undoubtedly place a burden on resources in drier parts of the world, but in Wales the vast majority of water consumed by livestock falls from the sky as rain. In water-rich countries, as little as 0.4 percent of the total water needs of livestock production is ‘blue water’ from public supplies.”
Welsh Water released a statement in response to a backlash, saying: “Each year, the independent organization, Waterwise, runs Water Saving week, providing tips to people on how to reduce water usage in their everyday lives.
“Water companies and organizations across the UK have been supporting this by sharing content, tips and offering water saving devices on social media this week.
“Today’s theme highlighted the amount of water that can be involved in the production of meat, and suggested going meat-free for a day. The post that we shared on Facebook received a number of comments – many from people who were unhappy with the post.
“We apologize if we have caused any offense and deleted the post from our social media channel. It is never our intention to cause upset to our customers.”
‘An important issue’
But a vegan source told Plant Based News that they have contacted Welsh Water, to praise the advert, which they describe as a ‘crucial public service announcement.
“Animal agriculture is a leading consumer of water,” they said. “Welsh Water should be applauded for taking this innovative approach to educate people about the environmental impact of their food choices. Meat has a HUGE water footprint.
“I have contacted Welsh Water, and encourage others to do the same. Animal agriculture is destroying the planet, and it is a travesty that animal farmers who stand to gain financially from their destructive business are censoring information.”