Eating less meat could save 45,000 UK lives every year says report

Posted: 18 October 2010

Switching to diets that contain no more than three meat meals each week could prevent around 45,000 early UK deaths and save the National Health Service £1.2 billion each year - as well as helping to tackle climate change and curb deforestation, according to a new report.

Reseachers from Oxford University analysed the health implications of a range of dietary options and concluded that lower-meat diets could cut deaths from heart disease by around 31,000, deaths from cancer by 9,000 and deaths from strokes by 5,000 each year.

The report, issued by Friends of the Earth, also highlights how factory farming and processing of meat has made it less healthy, with an average supermarket chicken today containing 2.7 times as much fat as in 1970 and 30 per cent less protein.

Its release comes ahead of a key vote in the British parliament on the Sustainable Livestock Bill in November. If passed, the new Law should see the Government recommending healthier meat-based diets and changing the way food production is funded through subsidies paid for by taxpayers.

FoE says that current levels and methods of meat production are driving wildlife loss in South America where rainforests are being cleared to grow animal feed and rear cattle for export to Europe.

The organisation's Director of Policy and Campaigns, Craig Bennett said: "We don't need to go vegetarian to look after ourselves and our planet - but we do need to cut down on meat.

"While the Government has ignored the environmental impact of high meat and dairy consumption, it can't ignore the lives that would be saved by switching to ess and better meat.

"Eating less and better meat is a win win but we need the Government to act too - at the moment it promotes unhealthy high-meat diets and funds damaging factory farms.

Dr Mike Rayner of the Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, said:"This research demonstrates the clear health benefits of cutting down on meat and dairy in the UK and quantifies this more comprehensively than ever before."

Actress and mother um of three Helen Baxendale said: "We've switched to less and better quality meat since we heard about the damaging impact factory farming is having on the planet - now I want the Government to play its part.

"It's outrageous that millions pounds of public money is spent on factory farming and imported animal feed that's grown where we used to have rainforests."

You can join FoE's Food Chain Campaign at www.jointheMOOvement.com

For more information on the impacts of the meat and dairy sector, see
Friends of the Earth's What's feeding our food? report at:
http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/livestock_impacts.pdf