Tag Archives: food policy

Food strategy for England is a recipe to make you sick

Reading the government’s much vaunted food strategy released on Monday, I was remined of the school dinners of my youth. Bland. At times lumpy. And flavourless and unsatisfying. The only way you could eat the main course was with an unhealthy dose of salt, though the deserts were usually sprinkled with sugar. There are no restrictions on salt or sugar then (late fifties and early sixties) and there are to be none now.

Boris Johnson’s true instincts were made clear 16 years ago when, as shadow education spokesman, he praised parents who defied healthy eating moves: “If I were in charge, I would get rid of Jamie Oliver and tell people to eat what they liked.” He is now in charge and he has all but dismissed another chef, Henry Dimbleby, whose government commissioned report on a National Food Strategy recommended expanding provision of free school meals, a 30 per cent reduction in the amount of meat we eat and taxes on sugar and salt. But although Johnson seemed to be more interested in obesity after he caught Covid-19, the food strategy published on Monday shows he doesn’t have the stomach for dealing with it.

Faced with criticism at the weekend after the report was leaked last Friday, Boris Johnson said the solution to was not to “start whacking new taxes” but “to eat less”. The era of nudge policies seems long gone.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 2 Comments

A food policy motion for Spring Conference

The deadline is approaching for submitting motions to Spring Conference, which should be a great chance to pin down our policies and demonstrate our values. For me, those values include deep concern about both climate change and animal welfare. If you share those concerns, please sign a motion that’s being submitted – available at this link.

On climate change, we should further strengthen our party’s green credentials by grappling with the environmental impacts of food production. The Climate Change Committee’s pathway to net zero includes reducing meat consumption by at least 35% by 2050. Importantly, this is based on the representative citizens’ Climate Assembly, which was comfortable with reducing meat and dairy consumption by 20-40%. The reason why these reductions are required is both because of the emissions that livestock directly produce and because growing crops to feed livestock is an inefficient use of land that needs to be freed up for carbon capture and nature.

The ‘National Food Strategy’ that reported in July (and that our party called for in our last three manifestos) similarly calls for a 30 per cent reduction in meat consumption within a decade, as part of a plan to create the best balance of healthy food production and nature. But the current government seems unlikely to accept that recommendation: its climate strategy has “nothing to say on diet changes” and the government even deleted a report on the topic. As the motion sets out, the Lib Dems can do better (and do so without resorting to higher taxes on meat, for example).

On animal welfare too, it is time for Lib Dems to lead the debate. Although the current government is making some progress, and British farming has much to be proud of, in some areas the UK is falling behind and there is a lot more to be done. If we were still in the EU, we would now be committed to ‘ending the cage age’ by 2027 – ending the use of pig farrowing crates, caged hens and more – but the UK government has not yet agreed to match this. As another example, the UK kills tens of millions of male chicks each year (as males of egg-laying breeds are no longer considered efficient sources of meat), but thanks to new technologies Germany, France have banned this mass culling from 1 January 2022 (with Italy and probably the EU as a whole set to follow). The UK should be following suit.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 44 Comments
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