Protecting our natural environment

Leaving the environment for the next generation in better condition than we found it is our number one priority. Good stewardship of our natural environment is a key Conservative value and political imperative. I am proud of the world-leading work that is going on in Cornwall, nationally and internationally, from decarbonising our energy generation, to planting millions of trees and creating huge marine conservation zones around the globe. 

The government is leading global and national action by accepting the latest scientific data that requires us to do more and reach net zero emissions sooner than our current plans. I am delighted that Cornwall Council has recently decided to use its considerable power and resources to take more local action. I know many town and parish councils, schools, colleges and businesses are taking action too. 

Apart from my work as your MP, I am personally committed to reducing my impact on the environment by thinking about what I consume, and trying to buy local and reduce, reuse and recycle. 

I recently used some well-known carbon footprint calculators to help me make some choices. The calculators estimate how much carbon we are emitting based on our lifestyle and consumption. I was concerned to be told that I need to reduce or eliminate the amount of beef and lamb I cook for my family! I was surprised that there was no differentiation between, for example, eating grass-fed, local meat and that fed on corn and imported from South America. 

Chris Jones of Woodland Valley Farm in Ladock told me that “we went onto 100% grass-fed and our emissions audit went from 300 tonnes emitted to 350 tonnes sequestered in soil on the farm. The last 9 years have seen us double our soil carbon content, all down to the feeding of the animals on a grass only diet.”  

Chris sells his meat direct from the farm but has mostly switched to dairy, also entirely pasture fed. They have recently been given permission to retail raw milk in small quantities direct from the farm too – it has the same environmental benefits as pasture feeding any other cattle and is very nutrient dense. They estimate that each litre of milk would come with 2kg of carbon credit free. 

I am supporting an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would ensure there is a proper legal definition for the term grass-fed so that it can only be used on products that have been raised on pasture all their lives. This can mean grass in the summer and conserved pasture ie hay, haylage or silage in the winter. 

Currently, grass-fed can be used on any products that come from animals that have been fed on grass for just 51% of their lives. 

This is a small change that will enable us all to have the correct information, supporting local farmers, our health and wellbeing as well as the planet. And I won’t have to give up family favourites using local dairy, beef and lamb! 

First published in the West Briton 21/02/19