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'All You Need Is (less) Meat?'

Thursday, 3 December 2009
"Less meat = Less heat" was the message delivered to MEPs this morning by former rock-legend and Beatles songwriter Sir Paul McCartney as he stood in the Brussels hemicycle.

The hearing on Climate Change and Global Warming also featured Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and comes conveniently ahead of the meeting of world leaders in Copenhagen next week.

Sir Paul McCartney at European Parliament by ajburgess, on Flickr

Organised by EP Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, the hearing wanted to address the fact that "livestock is responsible for emitting more CO2 than transport", a detail announced by Mr McMillan-Scott before confessing that he had not eaten meat since the traditional turkey dinner last Christmas.

For his part, the former Beatle believes that the production of food — from farm to fork — accounts for between 20 and 30 percent of global green house gas emissions, and livestock production, for our meat-needs, is responsible for around half of these emissions.

"I would like to think that this is not true", he said, "but I have a feeling that it is true which is why I stand before you today".

Earlier this year, Sir Paul launched his Meat Free Monday campaign, which he hopes will encourage households to cut out meat on Mondays and as a result help to slow the effects of global warming.

"People are confused about what they can do [to help]", he told the audience, "but the point of this campaign is that it is very do-able."

Sir Paul spoke of the example set by the Belgian town of Ghent, which earlier this year announced plans to make every Thursday a meat-free day as proof that such an initiative can catch on. Yet, while admitting that Europe cannot just 'become' vegetarian, Sir Paul estimates that if each European gives up eating meat for just one day a week, he/she will save the equivalent of one 1000-mile car journey in CO2 emissions.

"If we leave this planet a mess, it is our children that will have to clean it up," Sir Paul continued. "We have to be responsible for our children's future."

This message was also relayed by Dr Pachauri who said that this source of emissions was "one sector in which we can make a difference", stating that the campaign encouraged by Sir Paul was a "simple, effective and short-term measure to save future generations".

"It would only be a vegetarian that would suggest this"

But the suggestion that Europe should become vegetarian was met with fierce opposition by Irish meat-eating Mairead McGuinness MEP, a member of the AGRI Committee, who exclaimed "it would only be a vegetarian that would suggest this".

"In the EU, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have been reduced," she said, "yet globally emissions from agriculture have increased, proving that a solution at EU level will not work, which reinforces the need for a global climate change strategy."

"Even if the world became vegetarian, we would still have the problem of global warming and climate change," she said.

Half of the dishes meat-free in the EP canteens

The Parliament also made further special arrangements in ensuring that half of all meals provided for staff and members in the canteens are meat-free.

But if that was not to your tastes, Paul Nuttall (EFD, UK) used his intervention in the debate to publically invite everyone to a staged lunchtime BBQ in Place Luxembourg, which he rather drolly entitled 'All You Need Is Meat'...

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