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Yesterday, the Telegraph reported that a series of leaked emails showed the supermarket giant Tesco is planning to encourage customers to eat less meat.
The bizarre suggestion arose following allegations that the supermarket 'trades with a company linked to deforestation in Brazil'. David Lewis, the former CEO of the supermarket, wrote to Greenpeace shortly before leaving the company at the end of last year to outline Tesco's commitment to "reduce meat and dairy consumption".
Mr. Lewis's pledge to Greenpeace marked the beginning of a concerning trend now adopted by the current CEO Ken Murphy, who earlier this year reaffirmed the company's commitment to increase meat alternative sales by 300 per cent by 2025.
It is noble, particularly for large chains such as Tesco, to pursue environmentally friendly objectives. However, the way to tackle deforestation abroad lies with a buoyant market for ethically-produced meat by British farmers, not by offering a wider selection of mung bean burgers.
One could argue that a business such as Tesco is in the market exclusively to make a profit. You only need look at the astronomical mark up on some 'plant-based meat alternatives' to arrive at the conclusion that a 300 per cent increase would yield strong financial gain.
How a private business chooses to turn over a profit isn't a major concern to me. The travesty here is how Tesco appears willing to prop up meatless alternatives, while ignoring the benefits of customers buying from British farmers, to swerve legitimate criticism about their relationship with international meat businesses linked to the destruction of the rainforest.
No one is arguing that consumers should not have the right to select products based on their personal dietary preferences, but those choices should be based on a real understanding of their environmental impact. Biodiversity and our countryside is enhanced by a strong demand for sustainable British farm produce.
It is my belief that the vast bulk of the public will continue to lead meat inclusive diets and they will opt for the real thing, so long as they understand the social and environmental benefits of choosing sustainably-produced British meat.
What absolutely cannot happen, is for supermarkets like Tesco to blindly opt for the worst possible option, which would be to offer a choice between fake meat while continuing to offer imported meat products from unsustainable systems.
Going forward, Tesco must shout louder about the very positive story British farming has to tell, if it is sustainability they truly intend to promote.