Written by Louise Davies, The Vegan Society’s Head of Campaigns and Policy
There’s a lot of talk about food and farming at the moment, with the prospect of Brexit on the horizon and the unknown factors that will affect the future of British farmers. You’d expect The Vegan Society to believe that our food system needs to change - after all, we want a world with no animal exploitation. But the current picture is much broader than animal cruelty, and an urgent shake up of our food system is needed if we’re to be a sustainable and healthy nation. We’ve been working with New Economics Foundation to devise solutions for the farm of the future.
NEF identified eight ways in which our food system is currently broken…
It’s environmentally unfriendly
Food production should have a neutral or positive impact on the planet. A food system which has an environmental impact that costs us over £5.7 billion a year needs drastic change.
We use roughly eight calories of energy to produce every one calorie of energy from food. My maths is poor, but that seems like something to be fixed.
It’s not varied.
We need farming that is diverse in species and genes to stop native breeds dying out.
It supports bad jobs
Most employees of our food system earn less than half of the UK average. Approximately 11% of the work force are employed in our food system and it’s time we made them good jobs.
It’s too complicated
We need a food system with short, manageable and transparent supply chains with a decent share of profits going to farmers. The fallout and panic from any food scare shows just how complex the food chain is.
Access to farm land is expensive, costing more than three times as much as it did in 2004. 17 million hectares of agricultural land is owned by just 0.25% of the UK population. We need a much wider and inclusive ownership system for our land.
If we’re producing and subsidising food, surely it should be food that benefits our health. Obesity is on the rise and is the greatest threat to public health. Processed meat has been identified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation so we should question why it’s still part of our food system.
We need food that is affordable for everyone. Britons spend less on food than almost any other EU country, but random price spikes hit poor households the hardest.
The only thing our food system manages to do effectively is to deliver lots of food at a low price to the consumer, but this is at the expense of all eight factors mentioned above. Whatever your view on Brexit, it provides an opportunity for us to rethink what we farm, grow and eat, and start to develop a food system that works for everyone, including animals.
You can read The Vegan Society’s Grow Green II full report at vegansociety.com/growgreen.