A new “planetary health diet” has been created by the EAT-Lancet Commission, which has set guidelines for providing nutritious food to the world’s growing population and addressing the negative impact of farming – especially livestock – on climate change, the destruction of wildlife and the pollution of rivers and oceans.
A group of more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe were brought together as part of the EAT-Lancet Commission. With experts in farming, climate change and nutrition, the Commission has delivered the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system.
They took two years to come up with their findings which have been published in the Lancet and are being sent to policymakers in 40 cities around the world.
According to the scientists, the diet is a “win-win”, as it would save at least 11 million people a year from deaths caused by unhealthy food, while preventing the collapse of the natural world.
Better diets, better planet
Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill health worldwide and industrial agriculture is devastating the environment.
Researchers say the ‘planetary health diet’ will prevent millions of people dying each year from diseases related to unhealthy diets, such as heart attacks, strokes and some cancers - the biggest killers in developed countries.
When it comes to global warming, the livestock industry is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is also a significant source of air pollution and one of the biggest threats to freshwater sources.
Without preventative action, industrial meat and dairy production is on track to surpass the fossil fuel industry as the world’s biggest contributors to climate change.
Eating less and better
Our food system needs to change radically if we are to continue to feed a growing population in a more humane and sustainable way.
We should all be eating significantly less meat, dairy and eggs and ensure what we do eat comes from higher welfare systems (e.g. free-range/Organic) if we are to truly value the lives of the animals reared to feed us. We also need to waste less and eat more plant-based foods.
All livestock animals deserve a good quality of life where they are fit, healthy and happy, and Compassion has been working with the food industry for over 10 years to raise the baseline standards of animal welfare in our farming systems.
Higher welfare food may cost more to produce but by eating less we can all afford to support farming systems which are better for the animals, our health and for the good of the planet.
The EAT-Lancet report is advocating 28g per day limit on meat consumption to pave the way for a more sustainable food system. This is a massive undertaking for many people who are eating significantly more than this, and less than the WHO recommendation of 90g/day of red and processed meat. (Average consumption in the UK is 232g/day).
Many consumers are already addressing their meat, dairy and egg intake by turning to more flexitarian diets where they eat meat less often. Others are looking to replace animal protein (all or part of the time) with alternative plant-based proteins.
However, meaningful change is driven not only by passionate individuals, but by institutions with the power to influence global supply chains.
While there is an exponential growth in plant based choices (e.g. the recently launched Greggs vegan sausage roll and Quorn fishless fillets), or substitutes for meat (e.g. the increasingly popular meatless burgers - Impossible and Beyond Meat Burgers), we need all companies to develop and adopt protein strategies that are good for people, the animals and the environment.
Companies should not only be ensuring that they produce food to higher welfare standards, but they should also be taking steps to reduce the number of livestock animals used, and offering more plant-based food options to consumers.
Friendly Food Alliance
As part of its strategy, Compassion is calling for a 50% reduction in the production and consumption of meat (including fish), milk and eggs from farmed animals, in high-consuming nations by 2035, and by half globally (against 2015 baseline figures) by 2050.
Compassion’s Friendly Food Alliance is a project which aims to bring together food businesses and producers to build a more sustainable and healthy food and farming system, by reducing the number of animals and animal products purchased and produced by food companies by 25% by 2025.
By working with food industry leaders, Compassion will continue to create positive change for farm animals around the globe, but in order to tackle climate change and ensure sustainable food production in the future, we all need to act now to mend our broken food system.
Read further articles on the “Planetary health diet" here: