Scientists call on mayors to help cut meat eating

Boffins have penned a missive calling on leaders of world cities to cut animal products in state canteens

Selection of plant-foods

Rather than simply write reports and explain the facts about meat eating, a group of scientists has been spurred into penning an open letter calling on schools and hospitals around the world to cut the amount of animal products they serve.

Bypassing national governments to address city mayors, the #scientists4lessmeat letter – signed by more than 200 scientists from 20 countries – calls for less meat to be dished out in public-funded canteens to help tackle the climate emergency.

“Scientific consensus of currently observed and projected future climate and biodiversity impacts clearly calls for the rapid transformation of our society at all scales and across all sectors, in order to maintain a safe climate and planet for the future of humanity,” the scientists write.

“The greenhouse gas footprint of livestock products is approximately 10-100 times greater than plant-based foods. Reducing over-consumption of livestock products would greatly reduce the environmental impacts of food production. For example, it has recently been shown that a sixth of the carbon footprint of average diets in the Europe is due to tropical deforestation emissions. Meat and dairy production require large amounts of feed which often is produced from cropland expanding into newly deforested land.”

The letter was delivered earlier this month to the annual Milan Urban Food Policy Pact gathering, in Montpellier, and C40 Global Cities summit, in Copenhagen. The pact, signed in 2015 by 100 cities, is an international protocol aimed at helping urban areas deal with food-related issues, while C40 is a network of 94 cities – representing more than 700 million citizens and a quarter of the global economy – committed to tackling climate change.

Examples of places already making great steps include New York City, where all 1,700 public schools have joined MFM’s sister organisation, Meatless Monday; Lille, in France, where pupils in state schools have two meals a week with no meat or fish; and Mexico’s second-largest state, Veracruz, whose schools serve only plant-based food at the start of the week.

“Eating less meat and dairy in our growing cities is a way to address the climate emergency,” said one of the letter’s lead signatories, Professor Pete Smith of Aberdeen University, who has written several reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Cities can play a crucial role in helping citizens to reduce their consumption of livestock products and to enable the changes necessary to meet ambitious climate change targets.”

Read the letter