Minister slammed for saying meat not bad for environment

2:32 min

Agriculture Minister, Sven-Erik Bucht, does not view Sweden's increased meat consumption as an environmental problem and says in an interview with Swedish Radio News that the country's upcoming food policy will not include any strategies to reduce the consumption of meat.

His words have prompted a strong reaction among environmentalists and politicians.

Even a fellow social democrat, Environment and Agriculture parliamentary committee spokeswoman Matilda Ernkrans, has said that Bucht should "analyze the matter", while adding that she does not want to criticize her colleague.

"I think we need to be very clear that meat has an impact on the environment and that Swedish meat consumption should decrease," Ernkrans tells Swedish Radio News.

The government is currently working on a national food policy aimed at making farming in Sweden more sustainable, but will not include any guidelines or goals to reduce meat consumption, despite both researchers and environmental organisations pointing to the growing environmental impact of Swedes' diet.

"I don't think the food policy will say that we should eat less meat," says Agriculture Minister Sven-Erik Bucht.

According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, the production of milk, meat and eggs is responsible for one fifth of the world's greenhouse gasses.

"It's a very important issue and we had to choose the two most important issues for the environment those would be food waste and meat consumption," says Anna Richert at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Line Gordon, Deputy Director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, says that the world needs to cut down heavily on meat consumption to save the environment, and she is surprised that reducing meat consumption is not going to be a part of the national food policy.

"It is shocking when we know what effects meat consumption has on both health and environment and how these concerns are more and more on the agenda," Gordon says.

These days, Swedes eat more than 20 kilos more meat per person per year compared to 25 years ago, but when asked if Bucht thought that this is a problem he simply said 'no'.

Minister Bucht also seemed unaware that meat consumption has gone up the past two decades. Reports from both the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Environment Protection Agency contain this information.

"I don't have those figures in my head. I don't dare to say if it has gone up or down," he said to Swedish Radio News.

Both agencies have requested political action in order to bring down the consumption of meat, but Bucht does not agree.

"I don't believe that politicians should decide what people should or should not have on their food tables. In that aspect, I think politics should stay out of Swedish kitchens," Bucht says.