Dear Prime Minister Rishi Sunak,
We would like to donate £1 million to a charity of your choice in exchange for you adopting a plant-based diet for one month.
Adopting a plant-based diet is one of the best things we can do to champion British farmers and our countryside, while also meeting our emission reduction commitments and supporting public health.
Land use and biodiversity loss
William Blake famously wrote of England’s green and pleasant land. However, according to the researchers at the Natural History Museum, the UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, going so far as to say that due to the expansion of agriculture, ‘the UK has led the world in degrading the natural environment’.1
Agriculture is the primary land user in the UK, covering 71% of total UK land area2, around 17.5 million hectares3, and animal agriculture accounts for up to 85% of this land, yet provides only 32% of our calories and less than half of our protein.4 To feed the same number of people on a plant-based diet would require just one-sixth of the land, leaving 14.5 million hectares available for alternative uses5, such as nature restoration and rewilding of habitats as part of carbon sequestration initiatives.
A plant-based UK supports our farmers
The science is clear on the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, including its outsized climate impact, and the farming sector is also the most vulnerable to changes in weather systems resulting from climate breakdown. Raised public awareness of these impacts has led to a growing shift in consumer habits towards more plant-based diets. Many farmers are already moving away from rearing animals in favour of growing plants for human consumption to capitalise on this growing demand. A recent farmers’ survey found that 64% of respondents would consider transitioning out of animal agriculture entirely provided financial support was in place.6 As custodians of the countryside, farmers must be supported to adapt and diversify their production to meet these changing demands and better protect our planet.
UK’s leading role in protecting our planet
The World Health Organization has called climate change the ‘greatest threat to global health in the 21st century’. The UK must deliver on its commitment to meet the world’s most ambitious climate targets by addressing animal agriculture, which is responsible for at least 16.5% of all man-made GHG emissions7, and urge other developed economies to follow suit. By continuing with business as usual, this sector alone would account for 49% of the 1.5°C emissions budget by 2030.8 Research indicates that if we all ate plant-based, our food-related GHG emissions would drop by 70%.9 We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act decisively and comprehensively to halt climate breakdown now.
Support British innovation
The UK is well positioned to pioneer the innovation of sustainable alternative protein production. Moving away from the EU’s regulatory framework provides an important opportunity to become a global leader in the development of plant-, cell- and fermentation-based proteins. A recent report by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), estimates a £1bn UK market for plant-based alternatives, with predicted yearly growth for meat alternatives of 30%, dairy-free milk of 48%, and cheese alternatives of 38%, driven mainly by the expansion of start-ups.10 The government-commissioned National Food Strategy recently called on the UK government to invest £125m in sustainable protein start-ups.11
A thriving UK population
Noncommunicable diseases (NCD) are a significant burden to the NHS and the leading cause of premature mortality in the UK, accounting for around 89% of all deaths.12 NCDs are also largely preventable. Research shows that adopting a plant-based diet is significantly associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and lower risk of CVD incidence,13 which is the leading cause of death in the UK. Researchers have concluded that plant-based diets are also “especially potent” in preventing type 2 diabetes and have been associated with much lower rates of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and cancer.14
An EPIC-Oxford study of 65,411 men and women found that non-meat eaters were 37% less likely to develop diabetes compared with the regular meat eaters.15 A new study by researchers from Oxford Population Health’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit that analysed data from over 472,000 participants found that, when compared with regular meat-eaters, plant-based diets reduced the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 18%, prostate cancer by 31%, colorectal cancer in men by 43%, and of developing any type of cancer by 14%.16
In the UK’s meat, dairy and egg industries we needlessly kill around 1.2 billion land animals for food each year. For example, in the dairy industry, 2.6 million cows go through unimaginable cruelty all their lives and are eventually killed for meat.17 EU research suggests that between 10% and 20% of dairy cows are pregnant when they are slaughtered.18 Tens of thousands of male calves19 and 29 million male chicks20, unwanted by the industries they’re born into, are killed each year within days or hours of being born. Adopting a plant-based diet prioritises compassion and prevents this unnecessary suffering.
We hope you’ll consider our sincere offer and lead the UK towards a more sustainable and promising future. We look forward to hearing back from you with your response by January 31st.
UK Citizen and CEO at GenV.org
(1) UK has ‘led the world’ in destroying the natural environment – NHM.ac.uk 2020
(2) Agriculture in the United Kingdom / Structure of Industry – Gov.UK 2021
(3) Farming Statistics: provisional arable crop areas, yields and livestock populations – Gov.UK 2020
(4) Future of Feed report P6 – WWF UK 2022
(5) Agriculture in the United Kingdom / Structure of Industry – Gov.UK 2021
(6) Stockfree Farming qualitative survey report 2021-2022
(7) Emissions from Animal Agriculture: 16.5% New Minimum Figure – MDPI 2021
(8) Scientists call for renewed Paris pledges to transform agriculture – The Lancet 2020
(9) Health and climate change co-benefits of dietary change – PNAS.org 2016
(10) Alternative Proteins Roadmap: identifying UK priorities – UKRI.org 2022
(11) Nation Food Strategy: Independent Report for Government 2021
(12) C6 Public health, prevention and patient responsibility – Parliament.UK
(13) Association of Plant-Based Diet With CVD and Mortality – NCBI 2021
(14) Plant-based diets for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes – NCBI 2017
(15) Diet and risk of hospitalisation or death with diabetes – EPIC Oxford study 2019
(16) UK Biobank analysis – OPH Cancer Epidemiology Unit 2022
(17) UK and EU cow numbers – AHDB 2022
(18) Slaughter of pregnant cattle: current situation and prevalence – BMC Veterinary Research 2016
(19) Why Do Dairy Farmers Kill Male Calves? – Vet Help Direct 2021
(20) Britain continues to slaughter 29 million unwanted chicks every year – The Guardian 2022