Is the new trade deal with Australia a regressive step for our environment..
With 9,500 miles between us it unclear where the priorities lie when it comes to the new trade deal with Australia. Global warming is at crisis point and so far Britain has lead the way in regenerative farming methods and innovation and currently ranks fifth in the world on the Climate Change Performance Index. Australia – by contrast – is number 54 out of 60.
When Covid 19 hit there was a change in consumers buying habits, local butchers and smaller independent shops began to thrive, people looked for quality as food was the main expenditure in a lockdown world. Consumers wanted to support small local businesses, veg box schemes flourished, supporting local farmers and cutting out waste. It seems blinkered to reverse this progress by making things more difficult for our farmers and going elsewhere for goods we can produce here in a more sustainable and safer way that we have control over. On our path to hit net zero the government should be focusing on regenerative agriculture and incentive schemes not making new deals with farmers thousands of miles away where we have no control over how the produce is actually made.
Nearly all of Britain's cattle are grass fed and grass is a huge carbon sink. Grazing can reverse climate change by restoring bio diversity and building organic matter into the soil. Soils capacity to store carbon is greater than that of any other eco system, a combination of diverse vegetation and healthy soil draws carbon back out of the atmosphere. As a result there is a big argument for keeping the demand for high quality production of beef in the UK to ensure grazing lands are not replaced and to keep these carbon sinks going and thereby minimising our impact on the environment.
There is a balance between this and the need to cut down the amount of beef we eat due to the cattle producing methane but if the beef is produced in the correct way and we focus on quality over quantity then this ecological footprint can even out.
There are huge health benefits to pasture fed beef. Looking at the scientific research in the book 'Wilding' written by Isabella Tree - 'Chemical analysis of meat from cattle grazed on pasture shows far higher levels of vitamin A and E, and usually double the levels of beta-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A) and selenium - all powerful antioxidants. It also contains higher levels of healthy fatty acids including the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which protects against heart disease and plays a key role in brain function and development.' in contrast 'humans find the kind of fat that animals put down when they are grain-fed difficult to metabolise. Eating grain-fed animal fat can be detrimental to human health, with increasing evidence of links to obesity, cardiovacular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and cancers as well as depression, ADHD and Alzheimers.'
We should be taking care that we are eating the right kind of animal fats. Pasture fed beef should be treated as a highly nutritional delicacy. There are even links found to a decline in allergies and intolerances when an animal is pasture fed.
Australia has the highest rate of deforestation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): the rate of tree cover loss increased by 34 per cent between 2016-18, with most of those trees being cut down to clear space for the livestock industry.
According to the Guardian 'While Morrison is not expected to make any new commitments on climate, Australia is facing calls to support carbon tariffs on emissions-intensive imports.
However, the prime minister considers any form of carbon tariff to be against Australia’s national interest. Morrison is keen to focus on preparedness for future pandemics, business-led growth, free and fair trade and the international rules-based order.' The environment does not seem to be top of the list for Australia where it clearly needs to be.
As Partha Dasqupta's report on the Economics of Biodiversity illustrates, huge change is required in how we approach world trade and how we judge the success of a country's economy. Time is not on our side to protect the Biosphere and these trade agreements seem like a regressive step. Including ecological footprint into our trade negotiations should be at the top of our priorities.
Having grown up on an organic farm and seen the struggle, this is an issue close to my heart but governments can only do so much to protect the biosphere. It is the consumer that can exert huge pressure by how they spend their money. By being more vigilant as to where the products we buy have been sourced and the ecological footprint in their production. The power is in the consumers hands to create change.