(SKY NEWS) — Eating meat could become illegal in the future due to the damage caused to the environment, says a leading barrister calling for a new “ecocide” law.
Michael Mansfield QC says new legislation is needed to criminalise the “wilful destruction of nature”, which he described as a “crime against humanity”.
In a speech to be delivered at Labour’s party conference in Brighton on Monday, Mr Mansfield will say: “I think when we look at the damage eating meat is doing to the planet it is not preposterous to think that one day it will become illegal.
“There are plenty of things that were once commonplace that are now illegal such as smoking inside.”
Mr Mansfield, who has previously represented victims of the Hillsborough disaster and the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, is expected to make the remarks in a debate on the effects of livestock farming on the environment.
He will say: “We know that the top 3,000 companies in the world are responsible for more than £1.5tn worth of damage to the environment with meat and dairy production high on the list.
“We know that because the UN has told us so. It is time for a new law on ecocide to go alongside genocide and the other crimes against humanity.”
According to vegan charity Viva, which is hosting the debate, the world’s top three meat firms emit more greenhouse gases each year than all of France.
Some 25% of all global greenhouse emissions come from agriculture, with livestock production contributing about 80% of that, Viva said.
The organisation’s director, Juliet Gellatley, said: “Thirty years ago people didn’t bat an eyelid if you lit a cigarette in a pub or restaurant. But now society accepts smoking is harmful and totally unnecessary and so we legislated against it.
“The same could happen with eating meat.”
Charities warned earlier this month that UK farming needs billions of pounds from central government if commitments to tackle climate change and protect the natural environment are to be met.
When the UK leaves the European Union, the current EU-wide subsidy regime, which mainly pays farmers for the amount of land they have, will have to be replaced.
The RSPB, National Trust and the Wildlife Trusts say the £3.2bn spent on farm support and environmental payments in the UK under the EU system must be re-invested in helping farmers produce food in a way that helps nature.
Viva’s Vegan Now campaign event takes place at the Lighthouse Brighton on Monday afternoon.