Our consumption of meat and dairy products has a massive impact on the planet.

According the United Nations food and agriculture organisation, the livestock sector is one of the most serious contributors to environmental problems around the world.

The industry is responsible for about 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and uses 70 per cent of all agricultural land.

Recently, a former advisor to the Government on climate change, Lord Nicholas Stern, caused a stir when he urged people to go vegetarian to save the planet.

Methane emissions from cows aren’t the only problem we need to be concerned about. Another major problem is the ingredients of the animal feed we supply to our livestock.

A major component in many animal feeds is soya. Huge areas of South American rainforest have been cleared to grow this crop and many small farmers have been forced off their land by bigger producers growing the crop for export. While not everyone will wish to become a vegetarian, we can do our bit to prevent dangerous climate change by eating less, but better quality meat, and making sure that our livestock is fed on feed not linked to deforestation.

The Government needs to change subsidies to the farming industry to promote low-impact farming systems. More information about these issues can be found in the Friends of the Earth report What’s Feeding Our Food?, at foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/livestock_impacts.pdf

Guy Wallbanks, co-ordinator, York and Ryedale Friends of the Earth, Kingsway West, York.