Changing Wales’ diet
There was an interesting thread on LinkedIn last week, discussing things like Wales’ relience on imported fruit and vegetables. Predominantly Brexit-related issues, but it did spark a few comments about what Wales could and should be producing. And it led me to consider whether public procurement in Wales should only incorporate vegetarian or vegan products 🤔
So, after posting on LinkedIn that I was thinking about starting a petition, I did it.
Petitions in Wales
The petition functionality on the Senedd website is really user-friendly. I think that this system can help our elected representatives judge the mood and salience of particular topics, and it also helps citizens feel as though topics of interest are being properly considered, and could even be debated in the Senedd.
The process was straightforward; write some text about the petition, along with any supplementary information. Then find two people who are prepared to support your position.
After that there’s some internal checks and a translation to Welsh, and the petition is live!
The role of public procurement in Welsh diets
We know that around £85 million worth of food is procured by the public sector in Wales every year. This presents a brilliant opportunity for Welsh food producers. It also provides public bodies with an opportunity to influence the eating experience and the health of some of the most vulnerable in society (including people in hospital and people in schools); and to influence the strategic direction of food and agricultural policy in Wales.
My petition asks the Senedd to consider making all public procurement of food in Wales vegetarian or vegan, and there’s a few reasons for that.
The climate impact of meat
The fact that meat products produce much greater amounts of greenhouse gas emissions is well known.
A 2023 WCPP report highlighted that farming in Wales consists of mostly sheep and cattle grazing, with just 6% of farms devoted to crops and horticulture. This is despite the classification of 20% of land in Wales as grades 1-3a in the Agricultural Land Classification, defined as ‘best and most versatile’, that can sustain food and non-food crops.
Only 5% of the beef and lamb produced in Wales is eaten here; most is eaten in the rest of the UK, with significant amounts exported.
Astonishingly, given the increasing awareness of the climate crisis, emissions from agriculture in Wales have increased since 2016.
Indeed, if today’s level of global food emissions continue, there will be at least a 0.7°C additional heating by the end of the century. Wales must play its part in a radical reduction in food-related emissions.
If the public sector in Wales procured only vegetarian or vegan food, it would signify a strong policy shift, and help support fruit, vegetable and dairy producers in Wales.
Health impacts of eating meat
High levels of red or processed meat in diets are associated with elevated risks of bowel cancer. Some meats with high levels of saturated fat can increase risks of coronary heart disease.
Some hospitals in England have recently been discovered to have been serving meat with chemicals associated with the development of cancer.
Eliminating meat products from the procurement chain of the public sector would improve the health choices of thousands of people in Wales, improving the long-term outcomes for individuals, and also for demand on the NHS.
Use your democratic mandate!
If, like me, you believe that every policy lever on health, well-being and climate change, needs to be pulled simultaneously, it’s hard to get away from the fact that Wales’ agriculture system will need to be re-tooled, away from predominantly meat production, and towards more fruit and vegetables.
The Senedd petitions platform gives the people of Wales the opportunity to pressure politicians directly about the sorts of changes we believe need to take place.
I’d appreciate you lending your support to this petition 🙏🙇
Update 5 September
One of my friends kindly brought to my attention that a similar call has been made by hundreds of academics, to the food served by UK universities. The link to the Guardian article is here.