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New WWF campaign reveals British bought produce has hidden costs
Shopping local and buying British should mean our food isn’t destroying natural habitats and killing the creatures that live there - but too often, that isn’t the case. WWF is aiming to change that with a campaign to make importing products that contain deforestation illegal, Let’s get deforestation #OffOurPlates.
The food we eat in the UK is linked to the threatened extinction of an estimated 33 species, including jaguars, giant anteaters and three-toed sloths. Agriculture accounts for nearly three quarters of deforestation in tropical and subtropical countries, and by 2030 a further 1,700,000 km2 of forests could be destroyed if current deforestation rates continue - meaning we will lose the fight against climate change.
WWF figures show that European consumers, including in the UK, eat approximately 61kg of soy a year without realising. For example, even if they’re born and reared in the UK, the majority of pigs and chickens are fed on soy which is grown abroad. The soy fed to animals that produce food mostly comes from South America, where soy production has nearly tripled in the last 20 years. Global production is predicted to double again by 2050.
Unsustainable soy production is responsible for the destruction of rainforests and natural habitats in South America, because it is currently more profitable to clear new land for food production than to use degraded or abandoned agricultural land that already exists.
The efforts of Bisterne Estate in recovering their breeding lapwing (or pee-wit) was given national acclaim this month, with a “highly commended” ranking at the annual Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation, hosted by His Grace the Duke of Wellington at Apsley House in London.
The 4,000-acre Hampshire estate is a partner in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s LIFE+ Waders for Real project, an EU-funded programme involving scientists, farmers and the local community working together to reverse the decline of breeding waders in the Avon Valley. Since 2015 they have seen annual productivity increase from 0.49 to 0.80 lapwing chicks fledged per pair (lapwing need to produce 0.7 chicks per pair to maintain a stable population). In plain words, that means the lapwing population is self-sustaining at Bisterne. The fact that the estate is bucking the national trend with a growing population of breeding lapwings is a real team effort, but starts with three people intent on making it a haven for waders.
Hallam Mills, whose family have owned the land since 1792, has a passion for making Bisterne a conservation hotspot and has long subscribed to Higher Tier Stewardship. He encourages everyone involved in managing the estate to do so with conservation in mind. Martin Button, the Arable and Environmental Manager, has implemented conservation measures, resulting in good quality water meadow habitat, the right meadow grass length, nectar and pollen mixes, and improved soil quality. The success of their wading birds has been driven by gamekeeper Rupert Brewer, who having seen lapwing decline nationally by over 80% since 1960, was given the chance to do something about it, which he grabbed with both hands!
David Tickner, Jeffrey J Opperman, Robin Abell et al Bending the Curve of Global Freshwater Biodiversity Loss: An Emergency Recovery Plan, BioScience, biaa002, doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa002
McLachlan Jessica R. and Magrath Robert D. Speedy revelations: how alarm calls can convey rapid, reliable information about urgent danger Proc. R. Soc. B. doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.2772
Schwenk Kurt and Phillips Jackson R. Circumventing surface tension: tadpoles suck bubbles to breathe air Proc. R. Soc. B doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.2704
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