The win-win diet… or is it?

22 01 2019

A Lancet-sponsored group launched new diet recommendations this week, aimed at tackling the twin scourges of obesity-related health problems and agricultural environmental damage. It got a tonne of media coverage, and is ambitious and persuasive stuff (attracting outrage from the beef industry).

But what does it mean for animal welfare? Taking a 3Rs perspective (which I  think is really useful), replacing animal protein with plant-based food is good if it means reducing the number of farmed animals (because this means fewer net welfare problems). But it might not achieve this if the switch from non-recommended red meat (typically from large animals like cows) triggers the production of more individual chickens for white meat.  Worse: it’s likely that, compared to cows, a smaller proportion of chickens are farmed humanely, which means that such a shift would not be a refinement.  I wish someone would do a proper welfare audit of these recommendations and feed that  (pun intended) into the mix. (Or maybe I should just be very brave and become vegan).