As 2014's powerful documentary on the environmental impact of animal agriculture, Cowspiracy, showed us, there is a simple answer to the ongoing environmental crisis taking place across the globe - leave animal products off your plate. Meat, fish, dairy... reduce it and ideally remove it.
With the ongoing drought in California, awareness of the impact of animal farming on the environment is growing. Whilst conservationist efforts built around using less water struggle on in vain, from plain ol' campaigning to charging high water rates for those using more units than deemed required, there's another voice growing.
Following in Cowspiracy's footsteps, veganism is being heralded as the potential saviour for California at this time. The water resources used to continue giving the population animal products are astronomical, and halting such production would single-handedly free California from its crippling drought. For the stats, figures and further reasoning on this topic, Vice published a great article a couple of weeks ago: It's Time to Consider Veganism if You Care About California's Drought.
We've since seen a rise in vegan activism in politics purely because of this topic. Only yesterday Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Congresswoman, has announced she's taking the 7-day Veg-Pledge run by Compassion Over Killing, going vegan for a week. She cites 'personal health' and 'the environment' as her main motivations.
Yet in this same week as this issue is becoming ever more apparent in American politics, we've seen the launch of Labour's 'Green Manifesto' (a document which, ironically, doesn't even appear to be printed onto recycled paper as indicated by the Forest Stewardship Council logo at the bottom) in the run up to 7th May's general election. Set to be a very interesting result, Labour have got the UK's Green Party hot on their heels this year, with figures showing unprecedented support for the minority party.
So, does animal agriculture come up in the Green Manifesto by Labour? Nope. Not even once.
This 'oversight' (a word I use with some hesitation, as the warning signs have been there for years and you'd have to be living on some kind of hippie commune to not have heard that 'vegetarianism is good for the environment' at least once... and even then it's ok because you're probably already a fruitarian) stinks of the fear and failings that come with trying to keep the electorate happy. No one wants to hear a party tell them they're going to need to eat less meat. One only has to look at the uproar in the US recently when the independent committee looking at long-term healthy eating habits recommended plant-based diets. Isn't it annoying when science is always right?
The Green Party acknowledges this issue, thankfully, but is somewhat enigmatic about it. Buried deep in their environmental policy is CC280 and CC281, citing animal farming as a substantial component of greenhouse gas emissions, and claiming it will push citizens towards a plant-based diet. How it will do this is left unclear, as the policy links off to other policies, most of which only seem vaguely related to the points made, and others 404 and can't be accessed.
As for the others... well. UKIP's run by a man who thinks wind farms are too fugly to be introduced to the UK, whilst David Cameron famously called environmentalism 'green crap'. Yes, Conservatives mention environmental policy in their manifesto, but it mostly seems to be based on planting trees. Lots of trees. Oh, and apparently they want every car to be zero-emission by 2050. TWENTY FIFTY. If I'm not flying around in a hover car powered on water by then I'll be sorely disappointed. Honestly, that's 35 years, and at the rate of technological advancement we've seen over the last decade it seems short-sighted to think that's even a challenge.
The other parties fare better, and have some genuinely plausible goals in their environmental policy. But still, no mention of the big fat methane spurting cow in the room, animal agriculture.
With the Greens being the only party to touch on this issue, will we see the necessary reduction in animal farming we need here in the UK over the next five years? And will this issue finally rear its head in 2020's election? For now, at least, it seems like the onus falls to the consumer so let's eat some spinach.