The importance of the UK’s Livestock system

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When a city council takes a plant-based first approach, there are implications far beyond food at city hall, says NFU county advisor Gemma Harvey

Cows on Lyscombe Hill, looking out over the agricultural landscape of North Dorset. Image: Laura Hitchcock

Around 70 per cent of the total land area of England is used for farming. As well as being custodians of the iconic British landscape, the agricultural sector provides the foundations for the country’s largest manufacturing sector – food and drink. It is central to a thriving rural economy and is essential to the country’s net zero ambitions. Livestock plays an important role in this and in the South West we have some excellent livestock systems producing high quality, nutritious products in the form of meat and dairy, produced in very low greenhouse gas systems, comparative with others around the world.
The NFU was therefore disappointed in December when Exeter City Council backed a motion calling on the authority to ‘raise awareness of the benefits of plant-based foods’ and provide only plant-based food at internal meetings. In their debate they failed to recognise the vital role that the livestock sector in Devon plays in the economy and in managing the landscape, as well as ignoring the role of meat and dairy in a balanced diet.
The NFU has worked hard to engage with Exeter City Council on this issue, writing to highlight the positive role that livestock and the fact that the agricultural industry has a key role in delivering Net zero for the country as a whole.
In January our Devon team met Exeter city councillors to discuss the motion, making it very clear that everyone should have access to a sustainable, nutritious diet and that meat and dairy play a key role in this.
In Devon, just as in the rest of the South West, there is an abundance of producers able to fulfil the demands for a healthy and sustainable diet, including livestock producers as well as some excellent farming businesses who grow fruit, vegetables and grains.
We know that there are town councils across Dorset looking at their own food and sustainability strategies. The NFU has a range of literature and support on the subject. If you would like more information, or a conversation with me, or one of our fantastic Dorset farmers on the subject then please do get in touch.

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