Saying the Unsayable – Cut Meat Out.

orang-utangToday, at a WWF event in Cardiff, I stood up and said the unsayable. I talked about diet. Gasp! The room was quiet – is she really saying out loud that a population heading for 9 billion humans has to learn to eat sustainably? Is she really saying out loud that eating less meat is the only way to live kindly on this one single planet? Is she really saying that compassion and sustainability turn out to be two sides of the same coin?
Well yes she is. I’m not attacking anyone for eating meat, but asking that they think about where it comes from and how it is treated. I’m asking you to think about the fact that the 95% of non-human animals on this planet are those we breed to eat. I’m asking you to think about just how much land is required to feed them all. Above all I’m asking you to think about how our intensive farming practices are a huge part of the decimation of wildlife in this sorry world. Is it really fair to kill hundreds of orangutans just so that we can have a bit of cheap palm oil in our Ginger Nuts?
So lets not have this conversation in hushed tones lest we offend anybody. Let’s get it out in the open. Either we cut our own numbers, or we change our daily menu.
If you feel your eating habits are in question you are probably right. I’m not saying everyone should go vegan (though think how much help that would be !), I am saying that if you are eating meat 3 times a day you are not only living on a planet 3 times the size of the one we have actually got, you are contributing to suffering and hunger, because the grain used to feed the animals is grain which should rightly be feeding people.
58% of our wildlife is under dire threat. Wildlife populations  have more than halved in 40 years. The fish population has declined 36%. If you are eating meat simply because you like the taste, then either save it for a special treat or take a smaller portion. If you are eating it out of tradition, then think how many traditions have not stood the test of time and have been abandoned. Should animal sacrifice go the way of human sacrifice?
If you are going to eat it, always check that the meat comes from an approved RSPCA supplier ( if it doesn’t, you shouldn’t touch it anyway) and the fish is MSC approved. Those of us in the UK who can afford to buy Fairtrade and Organic, should do so whenever possible (and that’s most of us).
So much of our beloved wildlife is under real and imminent threat of extinction, yet we can do something, but it has to be now. So try a meat-free Monday, or a dairy-free Friday. Every single action in the right direction is going to help.
Once the hedgehogs, the turtle doves, the crickets and the butterflies have gone it will be too late. We only have now.

The undeniable sin of destroying wetlands.

otter

Yesterday I visited Magor marshes with Peter Varley ( standing for Newport East). To say the Directors of Gwent Wildlife Trust were depressed was an understatement. They have just had a Compulsory Purchase Order served on them, in order to use this fragile landscape for a 6 lane motorway.

I studied the plans, and in some places this motorway will be banked up an eye watering 18 meters above the land. The associated bridge over the Usk will restrict the height of shipping which will be able to enter Newport Docks, thus jeopardizing the jobs and commercial viability of the dock itself.

It is important not to forget that Llanwern Steelworks was itself built on the wetlands in 1962, so even then the viability of the wetlands was being compromised. To steal yet more of this Outstanding Landscape of Historic Interest is simply wrong. This environment cannot be re-created. The damage would be permanent.

My job as a Green is to protect and enhance life on this planet for all species, including humans. Scientists are in agreement that by continuing to burn fossil fuels we are releasing too much CO2 into the atmosphere, causing the planet to warm at a speed which will be almost impossible to control. This warming, for all our sakes – otters as well as humans – must be halted at once if this planet is to remain habitable.

Building another motorway will inevitably cause the burning of yet more fossil fuels. ‘Build it and they will come’ has never been truer than in the case of road building. Far from solving the problems of congestion, new roads are the harbingers of even more congestion. More congestion means more pollution, and more pollution is the very thing we want to avoid.

Pollution hurts our health, our environment and all living things, sometimes terminally in the case of heart and lung disease.

This 6 lane extension to the M4 is not necessary. If we look at the 19 miles ( yes only 19 miles) of sometimes congested road around the Bryn Glas tunnel area, it is not difficult to see that this is the Magor to Castleton area which is poorly provided for in public transport. Crossing from one side of Newport to another on public transport is a time consuming and tricky business, for no bus goes straight across the city, and worse, you have to walk from one bus station to the other because our planned sensible bus station site – opposite the train station – was sold to out to commercial interests. Inevitably, it has become preferable to face the congestion and buy a car.

SEW metro

The real solution for our ever increasing congestion and growing levels of pollution is a fast, affordable, and frequent public service. The plans for  South East Wales Metro have been drawn up for some years, yet the political will to bring them to reality has been lacking. Conversely the political will to build a 6 lane motorway across site of internationally recognised protected habitat seems to be all too forthcoming.

The cost of this M4 extension will be ( at today’s figures) £1.2 billion for 20 miles of motorway. That is more than enough to pay for an upgrade to the relevant part of the Metro, including the opening of all the little stations along the route.

In summary, this short-sighted vanity project by the Welsh Labour government will mean the devastation of one of our most rare wetland habitats which will have the automatic effect of increasing pollution, whilst depleting the financial reserves which should rightly be used to bring us a much-needed public transport system.

I would like to see us all freed from pollution and congestion. I would like to see Wales pulling its weight to respect the health and well-being of future generations. If you elect me to the Senedd on May 5th you can be sure I will fight to stop this motorway being built, whilst at the same time working for a world class public transport system which we will all be proud to use.

 

 

 

Eat or Beef?

The farming of animals is classed as a production line, and we slaughter, or kill, more than 155,000 cows a year, and that’s just in Wales. There are 19 abattoirs in Wales, 2 in Gwent. Worldwide 95% of all the mammals on the planet are the animals we keep to eat.

The overall environmental impact of beef is disproportionately higher than every other foodstuff. Cows reared for beef need 28 times more land than pigs, chickens, or lamb, and 11 times more water.

The UK imports 236,000 tonnes of beef, which is equivalent to 790,000 cows, most of which are bought in little pieces, wrapped in plastic, from Tesco.

The head of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who has openly identified eating less meat as an important step in combatting climate change, says “ Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.” A study of tens of thousands of British people’s daily eating habits shows that meat lovers’ diets cause double the climate-warming emissions of vegetarian diets.

Now I am not at all trying to ‘have a go’ at our farmers, I am in fact asking them to farm in a different way, because not only can they help in the battle against climate change, but they can prepare themselves for a changing marketplace in preparation for our changing eating habits.

According to Google, the search interest for “vegan” spiked in 2015, increasing 32 percent from the previous year.

In 2015, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the world’s largest generation. With millennials comes an increase in plant-based eating, as 12 percent of them identify as committed vegetarians.

A rough count shows there are 59 dedicated vegetarian restaurants in Wales, and every restaurant and café I know of has a good selection of veggie food – and I’m not talking about the ubiquitous pre-frozen veggie lasagna either.

In Gwent the internet tells me there are 127 vegetarian- friendly restaurants in Gwent, and 64 vegan- friendly ones – which was a pleasant surprise. Times are changing.

Farmers can grow more food on less land if they cut out beef. When compared to staples like potatoes, grains, and vegetables, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases. It is expected that the population will increase by another 2 billion people by 2050, so it makes sense to free up the land to feed us all.

Compared to beef, 78 times more vegetables and grain can be grown on a single hectare of land. That will feed a lot of people.

We don’t really have a choice whether to abandon our fossil-fuel driven cars or to eat less red meat if we truly want to leave a pleasant and habitable world for the future, but the biggest single intervention we can make is to eat less beef.

And don’t tell me vegan food is boring.  Try it!

It will only be a happy new year if the money drowns before we do

It’s very hard to wish you all a happy new year when so many are experiencing hardship. Whether you are trying to get muddy water out of what used to be your home, digging your children  out of the rubble of an air strike in Syria, fighting forest fires in drought ridden Spain, or contemplating the failed COP 21 agreement, I am thinking of you.

The climate has changed, but people haven’t. The anguish of the inhabitants of low lying lands has not made as much as a dent in the profit driven consumerist society we all help to feed. In Paris the agreement was marked by what it did not include. Missing was action on compensation for poor countries unable to invest in adjusting to low carbon technologies, missing was any measure at all to clarify the status of climate refugees, missing was any attempt to make fine words legally binding.

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