How can we feed the world & protect the environment?

30 October 2009

"It is decision time"

On 29 October, Lester Brown, founder of the WorldWatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute, gave Compassion in World Farming's 2009 Peter Roberts Memorial Lecture. At the lecture, Lester also launched his latest book Plan B 4.0: Mobilising to save civilisation.

Lester Brown urged governments at the Copenhagen summit to focus on food security to save civilisation from decline.

He told the 400-strong audience: "Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we have to make a choice. We can stay with business as usual and watch our economy decline and our civilization unravel, or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that mobilizes to save civilization. Our generation will make the decision, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come."

He called on individuals to reduce their meat and dairy consumption to fight climate change: "Although we seldom consider the climate effect of various dietary options, they are substantial, to say the least. … A plant-based diet requires roughly one fourth as much energy as a diet rich in red meat. Shifting from the latter to a plant-based diet cuts greenhouse gas emissions almost as much as shifting from a Suburban to a Prius [car] would. This is where Compassion in World Farming plays a role. Because if in the affluent countries, we can move down the food chain, we can save energy, land and water."

Discussion panel

Philip Lymbery and the lecture panel

Guest panel

Dr Jimmy Smith
Team Leader, Livestock at the World Bank

Dr Andrea Gavinelli
Head of the Animal Welfare Unit at the European Commission

Peter Melchett
Policy Director of the Soil Association

Joyce D'Silva

Each year, we use 60 billion animals for meat, milk and eggs. Worldwide, two out of every three farm animals are factory farmed. Factory farming has harmful impacts on the environment, and, crucially, on the animals themselves.

In the panel discussion following Lester's lecture, Compassion in World Farming's Ambassador, Joyce D'Silva said: "Each one of those 60 billion animals is an individual sentient being with a life of their own. Compassion in World Farming believes that animals have inherent value and not just utility value."

Closing speech

In his closing speech, Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, said: "Compassion's founder, Peter Roberts, saw that sustainability centres as much around our plate as our car. … a humane and sustainable food system is needed. One that provides access to decent, affordable food for all; for the sake of animals, people and the planet."

Compassion in World Farming's Peter Roberts Memorial Lecture

The Lecture is named in honour of the charity's founder, a dairy farmer. Since 1967, Compassion in World Farming has campaigned for an end to factory farming for the benefit of animals, people and planet. Previous Peter Roberts Memorial Lectures were given in 2008 and 2007. The 2008 lecture was given by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, joint winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. The 2007 lecture was given by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market.

Lester Brown

Lester Brown is an acclaimed global expert on feeding and fuelling our world while protecting the environment. Lester has received widespread international recognition for his work, including the 1987 United Nations' Environment Prize, the 1989 World Wide Fund for Nature Gold Medal, and the 1994 Blue Planet Prize for his "exceptional contributions to solving global environmental problems."

Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization is the latest update of Lester Brown's blueprint for avoiding catastrophic climate change and can be downloaded here.

Read more about Lester and his work at

Further information from Compassion in World Farming on animal agriculture, climate change and sustainability:

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