Sir, – I wanted to write to you as a way of sharing with your readers the importance of understanding and applying scientific, data driven evidence around environmental impact as the agricultural sector strives to reach the UK’s net zero carbon target.

Those of us working with and in the industry will be familiar with our common aspirations for net zero carbon. However, the impact of farmed animal food systems on the environment is still not fully understood. When this is the case, and the full net zero picture is not known, how can we make credible recommendations to farmers that will deliver?

What we are lacking is a consistent and independent voice on the scientific industry truths on this matter.

A number of people and bodies are discussing the carbon intensity of the agricultural sector, and livestock production specifically, and what is needed for net zero carbon targets to be achieved. But there is a lot of rhetoric, emotive language and seemingly contradictory facts circulating throughout the sector, the media and society on this subject. It’s confusing and serves to undermine agriculture.

You only have to open a tabloid newspaper, or Google ‘climate change’, and you are met with headlines like, ‘Eat less red meat to reduce climate change’, ‘Fewer sheep more trees’, and ‘Plant-based diets to positively impact carbon level’. Our industry is coming under fire, but how do we move forward to address these challenges?

We know that livestock farming and its impact on land-use is unique in major industrial sectors. It provides both a sink for carbon, as well as being a source of carbon emissions. However, it is this biological, natural interaction that we need to gain greater scientific insight on.

This evidence is critical to informing discussions, defining baselines that the entire industry can accept, and to identify critical knowledge gaps that we must address in the short and medium term to deliver net zero carbon commitments.

CIEL (Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock) has a goal to ensure future research supports the sector’s ambition to deliver net zero carbon. However, achieving this requires a consensus on where the industry is currently, and a clear understanding of the critical areas which can contribute the most towards achieving this ambition.

For this, we must collaborate and prioritise a science and evidence-based approach to tackling carbon emissions, that can inform best practice, offer solutions and provide future guidance to policymakers.

Lyndsay Chapman

Chief executive,

CIEL – UK Agri-Tech Centre