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Claim that reducing meat consumption helps the environment is ‘far too simplistic’ says President of NFU Cymru as Ministers dictate our future dietary habits

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS has sparked a debate with Welsh farmers over his recent comment that we should all eat less meat and also eat more locally sourced meat in a bid to tackle climate change. The Minister for Climate Change Julie James has also drawn criticism for her call for people to only eat meat on ‘high days and holidays’.

The President of NFU Cymru John Davies has written to the Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS. In his letter to Mr Waters, the NFU President maintained that the high sustainability values of Welsh red meat and dairy mean that consumers can continue to enjoy these products knowing that they are not impacting the environment.

One farmer who took issue to the call responded by video to a post by Lee Waters, which showed him at the COP26 conference stating that he was ‘proud to be flying the flag for Wales at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow’. Lee Waters responded with another video where he attempted to put the record straight but the videos appear to have been deleted.

The social media pages for Mr Waters have had an enormous amount of content on his views on climate change, Welsh Government initiatives and local projects recently which have attracted numerous messages of support for the MS but there are also numerous comments critical of his role.

The following heading and article (Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth) appeared in the Guardian more than three years ago but was shared to the Facebook page of Mr Waters on November 4th He made his comments on eating less meat soon after.

Outlining NFU Cymru’s Net Zero 2040 ambition, Mr Davies also encouraged Welsh Government to devise its path to achieving net zero in Wales and not to follow the route being advised by the UK Climate Change Committee.

In his letter, Mr Davies said that he welcomed the comments Lee Waters made in a recent interview where he said that ‘the meat you do eat should be local meat and it should be better quality meat’.

Mr Davies said that as producers of some the most climate-friendly food in the world, this is a point with which we agree entirely. Consumers can purchase meat from Wales safe in the knowledge that it is produced to some of the highest standards of sustainability.

Speaking to us this evening, Wednesday (Nov 10) Mr Davies said that he had recently returned from COP26 and was excited about the future for Welsh farming especially some of the science around plant based alternatives. Asked if people would simply nip over the border to England for cheaper meat if the rules are not the same Mr Davies said that there would be internal market rules and that anything thats is allowed into any part of the United Kingdom is allowed to circulate freely. He said what he was excited about was people flocking to Wales to buy the best.

Mr Davies did caution that the message that reducing meat consumption helps the environment is ‘far too simplistic’.

In his letter to the Deputy Minister he concluded by saying: “A different pathway than advised by the CCC is needed. I hope that based on the role that agriculture plays to the geography, economy and culture of Wales, alongside the ambition that the agricultural industry in Wales has set for itself, including the NFU Cymru Net Zero vision and HCC’s The Welsh Way, that you will agree that there is an alternative and more just transition to Net Zero that has been developed by the industry.”

TV personality Gareth Wyn Jones from Llanfairfechan has also criticised the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change Julie James after she suggested people should only eat meat on “high days and holidays”.

Mr Jones said that ministers who are ‘paid big salaries’ should be ‘thinking about what they say publicly’. The Minister who is a lifelong vegetarian was told not to “kick” agriculture.

The Minister also said:  “If you’re buying oranges out of season, they should be a luxury treat, not something you take for granted.”

You can listen to the Podcast interview with John Davies here:

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