Farmers For Stock-Free Farming is a Scottish-based, grassroots organisation established to inspire and support farmers and crofters in transitioning out of environmentally burdensome livestock agriculture into fairer, greener livelihoods that boost rural economies, mitigate climate change, improve food security, support biodiversity, and promote human health.
Rebecca Knowles and Sam Eccles, June 2021
WHAT WE KNOW:
• Scotland has failed to meet its legally set climate change target for the third year in a row. Bold action is needed in all sectors to meet net zero ambitions.
• The UK’s third Climate Change Risk Assessment1 (CCRA3, June 2021) states: “Adaptation action has failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk”. Five out of eight of their top priority areas for urgent action over the next two years relate to biodiversity, soil, environmental land management, sustainable farming, and food security.
• Scottish agricultural emissions showed essentially no change during 2019, with emissions from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry rising2.
• Since the baseline year of 1990, agricultural emissions have decreased only marginally (see chart B2).
• Amongst agricultural emissions, 99.9 per cent of methane is from livestock farming (enteric fermentation and animal waste)2. Eighty per cent of agriculture’s nitrous oxide emissions is from artificial fertilisers (30-40%) and livestock manure (40-50%)2. Together, methane and nitrous oxide accounted for approximately 84% of all agricultural emissions in 20192. Crops for animal feed use 80% of all nitrogen inputs in Europe3.
• A lead reviewer for the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report has stated that, “Cutting methane is the biggest opportunity to slow warming between now and 2040 [whereas] … Defossilisation will not lead to cooling until about 2050”.14
• According to the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock4, even if all current and cost-effective mitigation strategies are applied in the livestock sector it will only result in a 19% reduction in emissions by 2035, leaving 81% to be delivered by 2050. Clearly, a new and radical course of action is needed.
• Ruminant meat has environmental impacts 20-100 times those of plants7; with dairy, eggs, pork, chicken and seafood having impacts 2-25 times higher than plants per kilocalorie of food produced7.
• In its Summary for Scotland12 the CCRA3 describes the opportunities inherent in plant-based diets, “which have the potential to both mitigate climate change and result in healthier diets” (p. 133).
• Scotland’s Climate Assembly report13 (June 2021) urges “much more and much faster” measures to address the climate emergency including the promotion of plant-based diets, eating less meat and dairy, and transitional support for farmers to “enable a move away from meat and dairy farming” (p.71).
• Livestock-free, organic agriculture (‘veganic’), which uses no animal-derived inputs and no agrochemicals, reduces agricultural emissions, frees-up land for natural carbon storage through afforestation and rewilding, boosts rural economies, improves food self-sufficiency and food security, increases biodiversity, and enhances public health. (cf. p 55 SNP Manifesto)
WHAT WE WANT:
• An immediate repeal of the requirement in Payment Regions Two and Three for farmers and crofters to maintain minimum stocking levels (or undertake a costly Environmental Assessment) in order to be eligible for subsidies, thereby providing equitable funding to stock-free land managers.
• A “Stock-Free Transition Fund” that incentivises and supports farmers and crofters to shift from livestock farming to stock-free agriculture.
• A “Stock-Free Eco-Restoration Fund” that incentivises and supports farmers and crofters to rewild former permanent and rough grazing land including restoring seedbanks/afforestation/species introduction where appropriate.
• To make farmers and crofters priority beneficiaries of the “Rural Entrepreneur Fund” and the “Tourism Recovery Taskforce” to encourage and support farm/croft diversification.
• A Government-driven and funded, science-based, public information campaign to promote the shift to plant-based production and consumption: “Food Shift For A Future”.
• A seat on the “Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board” mentioned in the SNP Manifesto “… with representation from all farming sectors and types…”.
- Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk – Climate Change Committee (theccc.org.uk)
- Scottish Greenhouse Gas statistics: 1990-2019 – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
- Fixing nitrogen: the challenge for climate, nature and health (soilassociation.org)
- Science report highlights challenge in meeting UK net zero carbon goals for livestock | CIEL (cielivestock.co.uk)
- (PDF) Ensuring the UK’s Food Security in a Changing World A Defra Discussion Paper | timothy koome – Academia.edu; Eating-Away-at-Climate-Change-with-Negative-Emissions––Harwatt-Hayek.pdf (harvard.edu)
- Eating-Away-at-Climate-Change-with-Negative-Emissions––Harwatt-Hayek.pdf (harvard.edu)
- “Environmental impacts” are assessed across 5 dimensions: greenhouse gas emissions; land use; fossil fuel energy use, eutrophication potential; and acidification potential. Comparative analysis of environmental impacts of agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice – IOPscience
- Quality Meat Scotland Launches New ‘Make it’ Campaign – Agriland.co.uk
- £1m Milk Your Moments dairy campaign goes live – Farmers Weekly (fwi.co.uk)
- Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change (pnas.org) referenced in IPCC SR1.5
- Science Journals — AAAS (sciencemag.org)
- CCRA-Evidence-Report-Scotland-Summary-Final-1.pdf (ukclimaterisk.org)
- Full Report | Climate Assembly
- Guardian article on the IPCC’s new report published August 2021
Further reading for veganic farming:
• https://veganorganic.net/ – veganic farming education and certification body.
• http://www.biocyclic-vegan.org/ – veganic farming education and certification body.
• Growing Green: Organic Techniques for a Sustainable Future, Jenny Hall and Iain Tolhurst (2015). UK Stock-free/veganic farming manual.
• Rethinking Food and Agriculture: New Ways Forward, edited by Amir Kassam and Laila Kassam (2020). Academic book covering veganic farming.
• Planty Organic: Sneak preview evaluation 2012-2020, Geert-Jan van der Burgt and Bart Timmermans (2020). An 8 year Dutch study of a veganic farm.
photograph © Jason Baxter