Eating meat could become illegal due to the ecological damage it does to the planet, a top British barrister has said.
Michael Mansfield QC believes the government should introduce tighter legislation to make activities which destroy the natural world illegal – and in the future this could even include banning the consumption of meat.
“There are plenty of things that were once commonplace that are now illegal such as smoking inside,” said Mr Mansfield, who will present his ideas at the Labour party conference on Monday.
“We know that the top 3,000 companies in the world are responsible for more than £1.5tn worth of damage to the environment with meat and dairy production high on the list. We know that because the UN has told us so.
“I think when we look at the damage eating meat is doing to the planet it is not preposterous to think that one day it will become illegal,” he said.
Currently 25 per cent of global emissions come from agriculture, with livestock contributing to 80 per cent of that.
Industrial agriculture relies on fossil fuels to create fertilisers and machinery to harvest crops and transport animals. Farmed animals also produce half of the world’s methane emissions. Research last year found that meat and dairy companies could overtake the oil industry as the world’s biggest polluters by 2050.
“It is time for a new law on ecocide to go alongside genocide and the other crimes against humanity,” said Mr Mansfield.
The top QC will be making a speech at the launch of the Vegan Now campaign at the Labour party conference where he will be sitting on a panel of experts debating the damaging effects of livestock farming on biodiversity and climate change.
Juliet Gellatley, director of animal rights group Viva!, who will also be on the panel, said: “Thirty years ago people didn’t bat an eyelid if you lit a cigarette in a pub or restaurant. But now society accepts smoking is harmful and totally unnecessary and so we legislated against it. The same could happen with eating meat.”
Experts behind the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found red meat had high greenhouse gas footprint because of the emissions livestock give out as well as the impact of land being cleared to grow crops for animal feed.
The report says we should be eating balanced diets with plant-based foods such as grains, vegetables and pulses, and animal-based food produced in sustainable systems.
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