There are many valid concerns about conventional livestock, especially factory farming and extensive over-grazing, but the protestors outside Houndmills McDonald’s were naive.

High-tech ideas like large scale synthetic food won’t necessarily help. The world’s poor won’t benefit while one recent estimate is that 11 fully-used planets would be needed for all to have well-off US lifestyles and livelihoods while somebody will need to rehome climate refugees soon too.

Meat is also not confined to normal livestock; stem-cell meat is a long-term option but less conventional livestock are possible while conservation and careful use can be combined in areas unsuitable or undesirable for crops or development. Still, I agree urgent action is needed.

Massive reductions are possible in livestock’s impact per head via methods such as regenerative agriculture, integrated systems, less wasteful feed and methane-reducing feed additives.

That needs major investment, targeting, a commitment to conservation, alternatives to by-products with existing beef and dairy stocks eaten anyway. If a cull were sensible the beef and offal produced shouldn’t be wasted either.

If this seems unnecessary, I would highlight the culling of 5,000 healthy sheep in Shetland during 2007 while crops can fail badly yet conventional economic policies punish farmers via price crashes if gluts occur. Restoring fish stocks could be vital even if mostly as a backup.

The whole “eat this, not that” approach is the wrong way round, ineffective and a total cop-out whether from naïve idealists or fast lard emporia; it exemplifies everything wrong with Western attitudes.

Food supplies must be the priority, backed up by conservation and measures to reduce total levels of all greenhouse gasses and their effects.

Those arguing their dietary preferences are more important should ask themselves whether they would take responsibility, or even go hungry, if global food supplies were insufficient or were enough but didn’t reach poorer countries suffering from climate change or other supply disruption; if not, why not?

For the record, I’m not a farmer.

Iain Climie