The second Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) Conference kicked off on Tuesday morning (10th December) at the Said Business School, Oxford. Over 160 researchers and professionals braved the weather and train strikes to engage in a dynamic and engaging day on a wide range of topics around the effects of meat and dairy production and consumption on population health, the economy, society and the environment.
Professor Sir Charles Godfray, co-director of LEAP said: “What is tremendous fun about this event is the number of attendees from different fields and the way the discussions in each of the sessions has brought in a range of viewpoints. It is really helpful to get comments and friendly challenges from very different perspectives.”
The conference began with a thought-provoking talk from Professor Corinna Hawkes, City, University of London discussing ‘What will work to help the world to eat differently?’ Taking a people-centred approach, she talked us through the challenges we face and areas that need changing to allow us to eat more healthy and environmentally sustainable food.
After the break the conference was in full swing with two fast-paced sessions focused on the climate and environmental impacts of livestock production, health outcomes and behavioural interventions. Both sessions boasted a range of speakers addressing global issues, with case studies from Brazil, South Africa and Europe.
Lunch provided a welcome break and an opportunity to chat with fellow attendees. To keep everyone entertained LEAP’s public engagement co-ordinator, Lucy Yates, asked researchers ‘what’s your meat persona?’ Lucy guided delegates through a simple three-step process to find out which of six ‘Meat Personas’ they fit into (vegan options available) and the impact their relationship with meat could have on their health and the environment. This proved popular and highlighted some of the ways LEAP have been engaging with the public to find out what people eat and why.
Sessions resumed after lunch with a range of talks on cultured meat, meat alternatives, livestock management systems and sustainability. Global issues were covered in this session, including discussions around media coverage of cultured meat, consumer experiences acceptance of meat alternatives, tracing milk in India and a number of talks looking at links between agricultural sustainability, diet and health.
The final plenary of the day involved a stimulating talk from Professor Andrew Balmford, University of Cambridge, on ‘Feeding the world without costing the earth’. Andrew discussed a range of projects he has been involved in examining approaches to meet agricultural demand at least cost to nature. In particular he compared two approaches, land sharing, in which farmland is made as friendly to wildlife as possible, albeit at the cost of lower yields; and land sparing, in which space for nature on unfarmed land is maximised by farming elsewhere at high yields.
The day ended with a drinks reception and poster session, where attendees were able to explore collaborations and talk to the poster presenters on a range of topics relating to climate change and environmental impacts, food waste and health, diet and nutrition.
This event forms part of our LEAP project, funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of the Our Planet Our Health initiative. Our project brings together researchers, primarily based in Oxford, working with partners in IFPRI, TNC and Sainsbury’s, to study the health, environmental, social and economic effects of meat and dairy consumption, aiming to provide evidence and tools for decision makers to promote healthy and sustainable diets.