PLANT THE FUTURE. Respect Animals, Protect the Planet

Slow Food identifies six key elements at the heart of the new participatory process report presented at the Slow Beans event in Capannori (Italy), which traces the path of the movement’s future strategy.

The newly launched Slow Food participatory process report gives a voice to the Slow Food network and exposes the results of a global discussion among farmers, fishers, food artisans, Indigenous Peoples, cooks, youth, educators and activists regarding a transition towards a healthy plant-rich diet that favors agroecological farming and artisanal fishing.

“It is time to say it loud and clear: we all know how augmenting the consumption of industrial food of animal origin in recent decades has been detrimental to food security and human health, disastrous for animal welfare, and has contributed greatly to the climate emergency”, comments Richard McCarthy, Slow Food Board member. “We need to take action, and we need to do it now. Our food system plays a key role when talking about biodiversity loss, emissions or pollution, especially when we refer to the impacts of factory farming and intensive fishing on the environment, public health, food sovereignty, animals’ rights and more”. What Slow Food is doing, especially with this report, is to draft a broader vision which supports agroecology.

“Within this perspective, we have to take into consideration that a significant section of the global population does not have access to sustainably-made and artisanal food, and we aim to give a voice to the most marginalized segments of the population and turn the spotlight to the needs at the local level”, adds Francesco Sottile, Slow Food Board member.

In the Plant the Future report, the voice of the Slow Food network emerges on the most current topics, from intensive farming and fishing to the use of pesticides, from food sovereignty to public health. “The solution is agroecology, intended as a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems”, he concludes. Agroecology is more than just a set of agricultural practices, and Slow Food, together with many civil society organizations, is convinced that it can play an important role in changing social relationships, empowering local communities and prioritizing short productive chains. 

Slow Food’s response

In order to introduce the movement to a delicate political topic      and start prioritizing actions, Slow Food held a participatory process with its network to collate their first-hand knowledge of the situation in their local contexts. Thirteen roundtable meetings were convened in March and April 2023, involving more than 200 people from around 50 countries, representing every continent and specific interest groups. These sessions discussed the most urgent issues around animal farming and fishing in different areas, potential solutions, and the priorities on which Slow Food is committed to focus according to the needs of the local network.

“The purpose of this report is to provide an analysis of the outputs of this participatory process, which reflects and includes the voices of a global multitude, including groups that are often marginalized from the debate. These outputs will be used to develop a new Slow Food strategy to address these issues in light of the diversity of local contexts and priorities, and to draw a timeline leading up to the next International Congress in 2026”, comments Ottavia Pieretto, Slow Food Program Officer. “The results reflect the complexity and diversity of the Slow Food network around the world, and what has emerged is that there is no single unique path to follow to counteract factory farming and intensive fishing in favor of agroecology. Instead, our solutions have to be modeled according to the environmental, social and economic local context”.

Reject factory farming and intensive fishing. Choose agroecology

When referring to “plant-based” foods, the Slow Food network seeks to distance itself from ultra-processed foods, which are generally produced using crops grown in intensive monoculture systems and which contain no information regarding the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. It is therefore important to stress how a plant-rich diet embeds the sourcing of food of animal origin from agroecological farms, while adding more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, along with mushrooms and seaweeds, thereby contributing to healthier diets. Moreover, the Slow Food network has clearly asked to improve the agroecological sourcing of animal origin food, i.e. supporting those herders, fishermen and cheesemakers who put agroecological measures into practice on a daily basis .

 

Building on this reflection, legumes represent a valuable source of protein and offer a solution to many of the challenges we face. Their cultivation, if it follows methods based on agroecological principles, has a low environmental impact compared to industrial products of animal origin or industrial pulses cultivation, due to their significantly lower GHGs emissions, as well as their lower use of water and land. They should be seen as a valuable and enriching component of our nutrition, not simply as a substitution for products of animal origin. That is why Slow Beans, which takes place in Capannori (Italy) from October 27 to 29, offers the perfect occasion to present this document.

The Slow Food Plant the Future report in 6 points

  1. Agroecology – For most Slow Food communities, agroecology represents the keystone for ensuring universal access to a nutrient-rich diet that is respectful of cultures; for preserving biodiversity and natural resources; for dealing with the climate crisis and for restoring the central role in the food system to agriculture and farmers, ensuring social justice and human rights. Training on agroecology is needed at all levels.
  2. Overconsumption – Meat and animal derivatives are eaten differently around the globe: in most of the Global North there is an overconsumption of industrial products of animal origin, while millions of people are not guaranteed the right to food.
  3. Resource grabbing – Populations in the Global South, as well as Indigenous Peoples, suffer from resource grabbing, a process which allows for the very existence of the global industrial food system, based largely on industrial products of animal origin that rely on imported feed.
  4. Local needs – There is no silver bullet solution that can be implemented in every country; different approaches must be designed according to the most urgent issues within specific local contexts. To properly address the issues related to climate crisis, intensive animal farming and industrial fishery, the key targets which emerged are food producers, cooks, youth and decision-makers, starting from the local level.
  5. Fake solutions –  When addressing industrial animal farming, the Slow Food network clearly states its opposition to proposed “solutions” which arise from the same industrial models that led to today’s broken food system, such as lab-cultivated meat, highly processed food (even where plant-based) and the industrial production of insects for food.
  6. United efforts Such a complex struggle must be a collective effort, uniting like-minded organizations, research centers, politicians, universities and local authorities.

This process has been possible thanks to the collaboration with Meatless Monday, a global movement that encourages people to reduce meat in their diet for their own health and for the health of the planet, in association with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

The PLANT THE FUTURE. Respect Animals, Protect the Planet report is available here. 

 

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