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Livestock farming and its’ Climate impact – Cornish farmer investigates.

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Food for Thought is a new documentary from the charity Cornwall Climate Care that takes a ‘behind the headlines’ look at the claims around the climate impact of livestock farming – as well as solutions being developed to reduce said impact.

Animal agriculture is said to contribute more to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions than transport, with meat and dairy consumption continuing to rise across the globe.

But what is the situation in the UK, and particularly Cornwall, where the whole landscape has been shaped by centuries of animal agriculture? With much of Cornwall’s land area best suited to growing grass, the majority of everything farmed in the county is either livestock or food for those animals to eat.

Food for Thought is a new documentary from the charity Cornwall Climate Care that takes a ‘behind the headlines’ look at the claims around the climate impact of livestock farming – as well as solutions being developed to reduce said impact.

Presented by Lisa Guy (pictured left), who farms organic beef near Land’s End, the film considers a different perspective. Do pasture-fed Cornish animals have the same climate impact as intensively-reared cattle, fed on soya grown in what might recently have been Amazonian rainforest?

The documentary also looks in-depth at the many initiatives working to minimise the impact of livestock farming and also to boost regenerative farming techniques, which can play an important role in fighting climate change by restoring the health of the soil, one of the world’s largest carbon sinks.

The film includes interviews with a wide range of voices including:

  • an engineer who helped develop satellite systems to monitor the ozone hole – now using that expertise to convert gases from cattle waste into a green fuel
  • an experimental dairy unit where novel feeds including spent brewing grains and broken biscuits are being trialled in an attempt to reduce cows’ carbon footprint
  • a farmer who’s totally changed the way he sows his crops to help lock carbon into the soil
  • an Animal Rebellion activist, campaigning for animal agriculture to be phased out altogether
  • an egg company director calling for lifting of the post-BSE ban on use of processed slaughterhouse waste in animal feed – in order to reduce climate emissions
  • One of Cornwall’s three ‘net zero’ farmers, who has taken up the challenge of proving his farm can become carbon neutral within five years

Cornwall’s Climate Stories is a series of 12 documentaries being produced over the next few years, looking at various issues around climate change in Cornwall, their impact and featuring inspiring stories of what local people are doing to address these challenges.

The series has been praised by Sir David Attenborough, who said:

“The need you have identified is indeed a real one, and your films meet it very well. Many congratulations.”

The Cornwall’s Climate Stories films are non-political, non-sensationalist and focus on surprising and positive stories, featuring thoughts from across the agricultural and rural communities.

The project’s aim is to inspire, motivate and generally bring along people who have not traditionally been part of the climate conversation, or think that climate action is all about sticking yourself to the road or pouring soup over Picassos…

In surveys, audiences have scored the film at an average of 9.4 out of 10, particularly praising its balanced approach, and stressing how little they had previously thought or known about how their food is produced.

Producer Claire Wallerstein, Producer said:

“With greenhouse gas emissions still rising every year, the window for meaningful action on the climate crisis is rapidly closing, but sadly, conversation around it these days so often seems to have become reduced to angry shouting.

“With these films we really want to let people tell their own stories, showcase the practical action they’re taking, and create a space where everyone can be listened to.”

A follow-up film, Hungry for Change, coming in the Spring, will look more closely at issues such as food waste, food miles, and what Cornwall could do to produce much more of its own food.

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