Parliamentary report into food production backs plant-based industry

A recent report to the NSW Parliament has recognised those Australians who are calling for a phaseout of animal agriculture and a transition to plant-based diets.

Vegan Australia made a detailed submission to the inquiry as well as presenting a petition from 436 supporters. The inquiry also took submissions from Vegan NSW, Animal Liberation, Food Frontier and many others.

Vegan Australia is pleased that the inquiry took note of many of the points about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and health concerns of consuming animal products made in our submission and by others. Some of the report's recommendation reflected these points, but we are disappointed the recommendations did not go further, with the report stating that "traditional animal agriculture remains an important part of NSW's food systems and economy", but without giving reasons.

Environmental impact

The report recognised the impact of food production, particularly animal agriculture, on the environment, acknowledging that "stakeholders agreed that our food production and agricultural systems are major drivers of climate change. Animal agriculture was highlighted by inquiry participants as a substantial contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane."

Growth in plant-based eating

The inquiry heard that Australians are reducing their meat intake in favour of plant-based alternatives, leading to a strong growth in plant-based alternatives. "Inquiry participants told us that research indicates a significant number of Australians are actively reducing or eliminating meat consumption from their diets." Reasons given for this were "wanting to reduce their environmental footprint and having a healthier lifestyle. Several submissions highlighted a connection between meat production and consumption and poor environmental and health consequences."

Recommendation to grow plant-based industry

One of the recommendations of the report was "that the NSW Government continues to investigate opportunities to promote the growth of the plant-based protein manufacturing industry in NSW." Under the heading "Strengthening the plant-based protein manufacturing industry", the report stated "Consumer trends indicate decreasing meat consumption and increasing consumption of plant-based alternative proteins. Strengthening the plant-based protein manufacturing industry could deliver economic benefits given rising consumer demand."

"We were referred to plans to build plant protein manufacturing facilities in South Australia, partly funded by the federal and South Australian governments. Mr Greg McFarlane, Director of Vegan Australia, told us that this project is a good example of how governments can 'boost' the emerging plant-based protein industry."

Recommendation for sustainability food labelling system

The report also recommended that the Government advocates for the development of a sustainability food labelling system in response to a growing demand from consumers for information on the environmental sustainability of foods. "Labelling can help consumers make informed choices at the point of purchase. There are many industry-produced eco-labels, which can confuse consumers. A clear, standardised label could help consumers understand the sustainability of their food choices." A number of submissions called on the Government to develop such a sustainability food labelling scheme. The report goes on: "We acknowledge the challenges of a sustainability labelling scheme. The evidence we received did not put forward a clear model for sustainability labelling, reflecting the complexity of this issue. However, we agree there is a need for standardised government-regulated sustainability labelling. We believe government can engage with stakeholders to develop an evidence-supported labelling system."

Phaseout animal agriculture

Finally, the report recognised Vegan Australia's submission by stating that "we heard calls for the Government to begin a phaseout of animal agriculture and encourage a transition to plant-based diets. This was also reflected by members of the public who provided written submissions to the inquiry." The report also states that "we accept that reducing meat consumption can have health and environmental benefits" and "we support ongoing growth of the plant-based protein market in light of consumer trends and growing demand."

We thank all of our supporters and other organisations who worked together to put the ethical and scientific case for a vegan Australia to this inquiry.

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