Earlier this week, UK environment secretary Thérèse Coffey launched an attack on “fake meat” in her speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Coffey, who has previously distanced herself from veganism and vegetarianism, told attendees that she would “absolutely not” tell anyone that they should not eat meat. This is despite the fact that animal agriculture is one of the most environmentally destructive industries there is, driving greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, deforestation, freshwater use, and pollution. Scientists have previously stated that beef reduction needs to fall by 90 percent in western countries if we are to avoid climate collapse.
Expert warnings have largely fallen on deaf ears, however, and the UK government has consistently endorsed animal agriculture. Earlier this month, Rishi Sunak stated that he had “scrapped” plans for a meat tax (despite these plans never actually existing). Now, Coffey has once again rubbished any notion that the government’s environmental department will take meaningful action to reduce the country’s reliance on meat.
Thérèse Coffey’s attack on fake meat
Coffey began by saying that the UK’s farmers produce the “best food in the world” to the “highest animal welfare standards” (nb: for more on those “welfare standards,” please go here). Coffey then added: “But there’s some green zealots who think our farmers should stop rearing livestock and instead we should eat fake meat. Regardless of what the zealots say, by the way, I’m being taken to court in relation to this right now, I’m absolutely not going to tell anyone that they should not eat meat.”
“Fake meat might be OK for astronauts,” she continued. “But when people think of a meat feast, I want them to be thinking about great Welsh lamb, our Aberdeen Angus beef, our Saddleback pork, not some pizza topping.”
Our open letter to Therese Coffey
In response to her words, Plant Based News cofounder Robbie Lockie wrote an open letter to Coffey urging her to reconsider her position against meat-free eating. Here’s what they had to say:
Your recent remarks suggesting plant-based meats are solely for astronauts not only reflect a disheartening ignorance but also a stark disconnection from the environmental realities we are facing. With the scientific community overwhelmingly acknowledging the detrimental impacts of animal agriculture on our climate, your flippant comments are a disservice to your position as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
It’s alarming that someone in your esteemed position is sidelining the urgent calls for a transition towards a more sustainable and plant-based food system, especially amidst a climate crisis. The evidence is irrefutable: a plant-based diet significantly lowers greenhouse gas emissions, reduces land and water use, and alleviates the suffering of countless animals. Yet, your comments mock a viable solution and belittle the efforts of individuals and organizations striving for a more sustainable future.
Moreover, your suggestion that plant-based meats are futuristic or otherworldly is outdated and inaccurate. They are not a novel concept destined for outer space; they are a reality on Earth, now. With numerous companies and even traditional meat producers investing in plant-based alternatives, it’s evident that the market is not only ready but eager for more sustainable food choices.
‘A dangerous narrative’
Your remarks perpetuate a dangerous narrative that undermines the UK’s potential to be a leader in environmental sustainability and animal welfare. It also casts a shadow on the Conservative Party’s willingness to adapt and to address the climate crisis earnestly. The UK citizens deserve a representative who is informed, open to scientific evidence, and ready to take decisive action to mitigate the environmental impacts of our dietary choices.
It’s imperative to acknowledge the significant role that transitioning to a plant-based diet plays in combating climate change. Your dismissive attitude towards plant-based meats is not only misinformed but incredibly irresponsible, given the environmental urgency we face. It’s high time for a more enlightened and forward-thinking approach to environmental policy, one that embraces plant-based alternatives as a viable and necessary step towards a more sustainable and compassionate world.
Your lack of environmental foresight is not merely disappointing; it’s a dereliction of your duty to both the public and the planet we inhabit.
If you live in the UK and feel strongly about this issue, please visit www.writetothem, put in your postcode, and you can send your own version of this letter to your local MP.