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Green MEP wants an end to 'intensive mega-agriculture' in East Anglia

PUBLISHED: 15:11 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:11 09 August 2019

Catherine Rowett, Green Party MEP for the East of England. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Catherine Rowett, Green Party MEP for the East of England. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A Green Party MEP has called for an end to intensive chicken and pig farming in the East of England - and more funding to help small farms compete with "intensive mega-agriculture".

Catherine Rowett was responding to a major UN report on climate change which warns that current land use is fuelling greenhouse gas emissions, and recommends a reduction in meat consumption from intensively-reared production in favour of more balanced diets, mixing plant-based foods with animal-based foods produced in sustainable systems.

Dr Rowett, a University of East Anglia professor, said the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is "more than a wake-up call, it is a dire warning" and urged the government to take action "to radically transform our economy, in the ways the science says we need to".

She particularly highlighted the chicken and pig industries - two of East Anglia's major farming sectors - as well as the fertilisers used by the arable industry which feeds them.

"Britain's breadbasket in East Anglia is particularly threatened by climate change, but the land we have here could also be part of the solution," she said.

"If we can move away from meat-based diets and reduce the amount of land we use to feed chickens and pigs, we could free up large areas for nature, which is essential for reducing the alarming rate of global heating and for protecting valuable wildlife.

"We need EU funding to help small-scale farmers, who struggle to compete against intensive mega-agriculture, to set up and continue sustainable ways of farming that work with nature and not against it.

"In addition, moving to a more plant-based and more local diet could help feed more people, with less waste, and improve people's health. It is encouraging to see that the IPCC scientists say we must factor environmental costs into food, and it is time we introduced taxes on the most damaging foods like red meat."

READ MORE: Beef farmers defend their industry amid 'meat-free' climate change debate

Farming leaders in East Anglia said they were committed to tackling the challenges of climate change, and reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture.

Rachel Carrington, East Anglia regional director of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said farmers are already taking measures to limit their carbon footprint and improve their environment.

"We're acutely aware of the climate change challenge in East Anglia, the driest region of the UK but also a region where people, property and productive farmland are at risk if sea levels rise," she said. "It's a challenge that farmers across East Anglia are committed to tackling. The NFU wants UK agriculture to become 'net zero' by 2040, which means reducing our greenhouse gas footprint and offsetting emissions."

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