Melbourne Law School - Research Publications

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    Who has a beef with reducing red and processed meat consumption? A media framing analysis
    Sievert, K ; Lawrence, M ; Parker, C ; Russell, CA ; Baker, P (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2022-03-01)
    OBJECTIVE: Diets high in red and processed meat (RPM) contribute substantially to environmental degradation, greenhouse gas emissions and the global burden of chronic disease. High-profile reports have called for significant global RPM reduction, especially in high-income settings. Despite this, policy attention and political priority for the issue are low. DESIGN: The study used a theoretically guided framing analysis to identify frames used by various interest groups in relation to reducing RPM in online news media articles published in the months around the release of four high-profile reports by authoritative organisations that included a focus on the impacts of high RPM production and/or consumption. SETTING: Four major RPM producing and consuming countries - USA, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. PARTICIPANTS: None. RESULTS: Hundred and fifty news media articles were included. Articles reported the views of academics, policymakers, industry representatives and the article authors themselves. RPM reduction was remarkably polarising. Industry frequently framed RPM reduction as part of a 'Vegan Agenda' or as advocated by an elite minority. Reducing RPM was also depicted as an infringement on personal choice and traditional values. Many interest groups attempted to discredit the reports by citing a lack of consensus on the evidence, or that only certain forms of farming and processing were harmful. Academics and nutrition experts were more likely to be cited in articles that were aligned with the findings of the reports. CONCLUSIONS: The polarisation of RPM reduction has led to a binary conflict between pro- and anti-meat reduction actors. This division may diminish the extent to which political leaders will prioritise this in policy agendas. Using nuanced and context-dependent messaging could ensure the narratives around meat are less conflicting and more effective in addressing health and environmental harms associated with RPM.
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    What's really at 'steak'? Understanding the global politics of red and processed meat reduction: A framing analysis of stakeholder interviews
    Sievert, K ; Lawrence, M ; Parker, C ; Baker, P (ELSEVIER SCI LTD, 2022-08-22)
    Multiple reports from international organisations and expert groups call for reductions in production and consumption of red and processed meat (RPM) to attenuate associated health and environmental harms. Policymakers have given limited attention to the issue and public discourse on the topic is contentious. The framing of RPM as a policy issue by influential actors may be contributing to inertia and confusion. We investigate the political challenge of RPM reduction by analyzing how relevant actors interpret and portray the issue. Thirty-two participants from academia, civil society, intergovernmental organisations, and industry were interviewed. We find that food systems stakeholders do see value in continued RPM production and consumption in the food system, but that the current status-quo is untenable. RPM reduction was perceived as a polarising concept. Participants cited a lack of nuance in public discourse, with framings on harms and benefits of RPM being over-simplified and lacking context. Some participants noted that intensive RPM production and high consumption levels reflected corporatized/globalised supply chains, and power relations were the most critical factor to address the harms of RPM. Participants also viewed the preference for technology-driven responses (i.e., novel proteins) as reinforcing corporate power in the food system. This study shows that despite polarised public discourse, more convergence on the issue across food systems stakeholders exists. Furthermore, powerful actors such as the meat and 'novel protein' industries are perceived to be a driving influence in maintaining the market-driven status-quo and are a likely obstacle in achieving healthy and sustainable consumption of RPM.
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    Integrating nutrition and obesity prevention considerations into institutional investment decisions regarding food companies: Australian investment sector perspectives
    Robinson, E ; Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Foerster, A ; Blake, MR ; Sacks, G (BMC, 2022-11-08)
    BACKGROUND: There is growing recognition that current food systems are both unhealthy and unsustainable, and are increasingly shifting toward the supply and marketing of unhealthy, ultra-processed foods and beverages. Large food companies hold substantial power within food systems and present a significant barrier to progress on addressing issues related to nutrition and obesity prevention. Institutional investors (such as pension funds) play a key role in influencing corporate governance and practices, and are increasingly incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations within investment decisions. By considering nutrition and obesity prevention, institutional investors present a potential avenue for driving increased food industry accountability for their population health impact. This study investigated views of stakeholders in the Australian investment sector on the incorporation of nutrition and obesity prevention considerations within institutional investment decision-making regarding food companies. METHODS: Fifteen in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2020-21. Participants were predominantly Australian-based, and included representatives from asset management companies, superannuation funds, ESG advisory/consultancy firms, ESG research providers, and relevant advocacy groups. Interviews examined challenges and opportunities to the integration of nutrition and obesity prevention considerations within institutional investment decision-making. Interviews were analysed using deductive thematic analysis, informed by a theoretical change model. RESULTS: Several participants reported that their institution factored nutrition and obesity prevention considerations into their investment decisions; however, attention to nutrition-related issues was limited, generally perceived as 'niche', and not yet institutionalised. Key challenges and opportunities were identified at the employee, investment organisation, investment sector, government and non-government levels. These challenges and opportunities centred around experience and knowledge, quality and availability of ESG data and benchmarks, importance of investor coalitions, and demonstration of financial risks related to nutrition and obesity. CONCLUSION: There are a range of steps that could be taken to help ensure more systematic and effective consideration of issues related to nutrition and obesity prevention within institutional investment decision-making in Australia, including: (1) improved nutrition-related reporting metrics and benchmarking criteria for food companies; (2) better articulation of the financial risks that unhealthy diets and obesity pose to investors; (3) enhanced investor advocacy on unhealthy diets and obesity through investor coalitions and; (4) detailed guidance for investors on how to address unhealthy diets and obesity. Better engagement between the Australian public health community, institutional investors and government regulators is critical to drive changed investor practice in this area.
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    Are Banks Responsible for Animal Welfare and Climate Disruption? A Critical Review of Australian Banks' Due Diligence Policies for Agribusiness Lending
    Parker, C ; Sheedy-Reinhard, L (Cambridge University Press, 2022-11)
    Abstract This article argues that banks should adopt animal welfare policies in the light of the growing acceptance of the need for ‘responsible banking’, which incorporates environmental, social, and governance analysis into credit risk and due diligence processes. The responsibility of banks for animal welfare is underscored by the drive towards greater investment in animal agribusiness, and the vicious cycle through which animal agribusiness can both contribute to, and be impacted by, climate disruption. The article evaluates, through a desktop review, how leading Australian retail banks and agribusiness lenders are addressing animal welfare and climate disruption in animal agribusiness lending. We find that although most banks have made a commitment to animal welfare and climate policies, these often amount to little more than greenwashing. We call for an ecosystem of industry, regulatory, and civil society action to address this danger.
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    An Impossible Task? Australian Food Law and the Challenge of Novel Meat Analogues
    Johnson, H ; Parker, C (SAGE Publications, 2022-09-01)
    This paper asks what the regulatory assessment of the novel processed meat analogue products reveals about the nature of food regulation in Australia. We analyse Food Standards Australia and New Zealand’s (‘FSANZ’) assessment of the recent application by Californian technology company Impossible Foods Inc to sell its proprietary burger products which contain a genetically modified protein that is said to make their burger ‘bleed’. We show that FSANZ’s assessment process has little capacity to engage with broader and longer term, social, ecological and public health implications of novel foods and changing food markets. FSANZ’s regulatory pre-approval process focuses almost exclusively on the safety of individual ingredients rather than the impact of novel foods on the food supply as whole and leaves broader issues to the market and consumer choice with limited support from laws addressing misleading labelling and marketing of foods. Extending the capacity of Australia’s regulatory regime for food to deal with more than the safety of individual ingredients will become more urgent as other novel foods, such as cell-based meats, enter the marketplace.
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    Responsible investing for food system sustainability: A review of current practice in Australia
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Boehm, L ; Sacks, G ; Robinson, E (Thomson Reuters (Professional), 2021)
    This study investigates what role if any responsible investment by the finance sector is playing in promoting sustainable food systems in Australia. We report the findings of a preliminary desktop review of environmental, social and governance reporting by 35 of the most prominent responsible investment funds managers in Australia. Only one responsible investment fund had a comprehensive policy in relation to food system themes and 16 did not specifically mention the environmental, social and governance issues raised by food systems at all. Some addressed labour rights and intensive animal agriculture issues in the food system, and a few mentioned the climate change, biodiversity loss and water impacts of food. We conclude that a more comprehensive and holistic approach to consideration of sustainable food systems in responsible investment is required to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals and other environmental and human rights frameworks.
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    Promoting a healthier, younger you: The media marketing of anti-ageing superfoods
    MacGregor, C ; Petersen, A ; Parker, C (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2021-05-01)
    The growing availability of products labelled ‘superfoods’ has been a major marketing success story. While little scientific evidence supports the claims regarding the health-enhancing, age-defying benefits to be derived from the consumption of superfoods, marketers have been able to effectively promote these products for what they promise. This article explores the pedagogic role performed by media in marketing ‘superfoods’ in the contemporary context of food normlessness (‘gastro-anomy’). Using Foucault’s ideas on the workings of power and governance and drawing on data from an analysis of Australian media items on superfoods published between 1995 and 2014, the article reveals the techniques by which superfoods are promoted as the means for fashioning a healthier, younger self. It is argued that ‘superfoods’ is an ill-defined, ambiguous category, whose marketing is assisted through the confounding and confusing of news and advertising in media coverage, and the extensive use of promissory statements, scientific claims and personal forms of address that connect directly with audiences. We conclude by observing that while citizens may seek to live their lives according to the ideals of healthism, the media serves as a platform to promote neoliberal norms and values, such as consumer choice, accountability and the anxiety that goes along with them and that feeds the pursuit of ‘superfoods’.
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    Understanding the Political Challenge of Red and Processed Meat Reduction for Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems: A Narrative Review of the Literature
    Sievert, K ; Lawrence, M ; Parker, C ; Baker, P (KERMAN UNIV MEDICAL SCIENCES, 2020-12-02)
    BACKGROUND: Diets high in red and processed meat (RPM) contribute substantially to environmental degradation, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the global burden of chronic disease. Recent high-profile reports from international expert bodies have called for a significant reduction in global dietary meat intake, particularly RPM, especially in high-income settings, while acknowledging the importance of animal-sourced foods to population nutrition in many lower-income countries. However, this presents a major yet under-investigated political challenge given strong cultural preferences for meat and the economic importance and power of the meat industry. METHODS: A theoretically-guided narrative review was undertaken. The theoretical framework used to guide the review considered the interests, ideas and institutions that constitute food systems in relation to meat reduction; and the instrumental, discursive and structural forms of power that actors deploy in relation to others within the food system. RESULTS: High production and consumption levels of RPM are promoted and sustained by a number of factors. Actors with an interest in RPM included business and industry groups, governments, intergovernmental organisations, and civil society. Asymmetries of power between these actors exist, with institutional barriers recognised in the form of government-industry dependence, trade agreement conflicts, and policy incoherence. Industry lobbying, shaping of evidence and knowledge, and highly concentrated markets are key issues. Furthermore, prevailing ideologies like carnism and neoliberalism present embedded difficulties for RPM reduction. The literature noted the power of actors to resist meat reduction efforts exists in varying forms, including the use of lobbying, shaping of evidence and knowledge, and highly concentrated markets. CONCLUSION: There are a number of political challenges related to RPM reduction that contribute to policy inertia, and hence are likely to impede the transformation of food systems. Research on policy efforts to reduce RPM production and consumption should incorporate the role of power and political feasibility.
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    The Extent to Which Obesity and Population Nutrition Are Considered by Institutional Investors Engaged in Responsible Investment in Australia-A Review of Policies and Commitments
    Robinson, E ; Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Sacks, G (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2020-12-23)
    INTRODUCTION: Responsible investment (RI), in which environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations are incorporated into investment decision making, is a potentially powerful tool for increasing corporate accountability and improving corporate practices to address broad societal challenges. Whilst the RI sector is growing, there is limited understanding of the extent to which pressing social issues, such as obesity and unhealthy population diets, are incorporated within RI decision making. This study aimed to investigate the extent to which obesity prevention and population nutrition are considered by Australian institutional investors engaged in responsible investment. METHODS: A desk-based review was conducted of investment approaches of prominent Australian asset managers and superannuation funds identified as engaged in responsible investment. Relevant information on the incorporation of ESG issues related to obesity and population nutrition was extracted for each investor, drawing on websites, published policy documents and annual reports. Strategies were categorized as: (1) negative/exclusionary screening; (2) positive/best-in-class screening; (3) norms-based screening; (4) ESG integration; (5) sustainability-themed investing; (6) impact/community investing; and (7) corporate engagement and shareholder action. These strategies were compared across investors and by themes related to obesity and population nutrition. RESULTS: Eighteen of the 35 investors indicated that they applied investment strategies that considered issues related to obesity and population nutrition. The most commonly identified strategy was ESG integration (n = 12), followed by sustainability-themed investing (n = 6), and positive screening (n = 4). The ways in which obesity and population nutrition were considered as part of these approaches included relatively high-level general health considerations (n = 12), considerations around the healthiness of food company product portfolios (n = 10), and consideration of specific company nutrition policies and practices (n = 4). The specificity and depth to which RI strategies were disclosed varied. CONCLUSION: There is significant potential for investment decisions to contribute to efforts to address key social issues, such as obesity and unhealthy diets. Some institutional investors in Australia have recognized the potential importance of incorporating obesity- and population nutrition-related issues into decision-making processes. However, the extent to which these considerations translate into investment decisions and their impact on companies in the food sector warrant further exploration.
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    How Free Is Sow Stall Free? Incremental Regulatory Reform and Industry Co-optation of Activism
    Carey, R ; Parker, C ; Scrinis, G (WILEY, 2020-07-01)
    This article critically examines how interactions between social movement activism, supermarkets, and the pork industry led to the voluntary adoption of “sow stall free” standards in Australia. We “backwards map” the regulatory space behind “sow stall free” products to show how the movement against factory farming became selectively focused on the abolition of one form of confinement for sows, rather than other forms of confinement and the conditions of the sows’ offspring, the piglets that are consumed. We argue that this facilitated an incremental shift to “sow stall free” production, allowing the concept of pig welfare to be corporatized in a way that maintains the dominant model of factory farmed pig meat production.