BBC criticised for meat consumption remark

The BBC has been criticised for remarks made in an online article it published in which it was said that the “single biggest way” for a person to reduce their environmental impact is to eat less meat.

The article drew the ire of the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), a body similar to Teagasc.

Jane King, the chief executive of the AHDB, wrote a letter to a digital editor with the BBC’s online news team, in which she expressed her dismay at the article.

The BBC article in question was published on January 14, and was titled ‘Climate change: Where we are in seven charts and what you can do to help’. Under section seven of that article, the authors argue that: “The single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet is to modify your diet to include less meat.”

The article links to two studies to back up the argument: ‘Special Report on Climate Change and Land’ by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); and ‘Reducing food’s environmental impact through producers and consumers’ by Oxford University.

However, the AHDB argues that those two studies do not explicitly support the case for eating less meat.

“I question whether the evidence exists to substantiate this claim, and would ask you to review and share the data provided by the source, in order to ensure accuracy,” the AHDB letter said.

The levy board also pointed out that agriculture is responsible for only 9% of the UK’s emissions, while the transport and industry sectors account for 34% and 21% respectively.

The AHDB said that these figures “suggest that structural changes to the transport and energy sectors would have a much more substantial impact on lowering our GHG [greenhouse gas] impact”.

The agricultural body argued that the BBC article “draws an unsubstantiated conclusion from the available evidence”.

“Furthermore, assessing the environment impact of livestock production on GHG emissions alone is extremely simplistic…as the positive impact grazing lands have on: carbon sequestration; biodiversity; providing habitats and food source for wildlife; all while utilising the swathes of agricultural land unsuitable for cropping, are largely overlooked,” the AHDB added.