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23rd Jan 2021

Green Deal

NGOs urge EU to tackle meat consumption 'problem'

  • The EU has come recently under fire for promoting meat and dairy consumption over 21 separate marketing campaigns (Photo: michael davis-burchat)

Greenpeace, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and a dozen of other environmental NGOs have urged the European Commission to tackle the overconsumption of meat, dairy and eggs in the EU.

The call aims to reduce the negative impact of industrial animal production on the environment, human health, animal welfare and rural communities.

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The EU's Farm to Fork Strategy, which will be unveiled in the coming weeks, aims to develop a sustainable food system for Europe as part of its Green Deal.

However, ignoring the current food model jeopardises the strategy's credibility and viability to achieve its objectives of making EU food a "global standard for sustainability," warns the joint NGO letter sent on Tuesday (25 February) to the commission vice president for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans.

Europe has seen an increase of vegetarians and vegans in recent years amid concerns about the climate impact of the livestock industry, which accounts for about 14.5 percent of global CO2 emissions.

However, NGOs are calling on the commission to introduce binding targets to reduce the consumption and production of meat, dairy and eggs.

"The Farm to Fork Strategy must ensure an end to the current model of meat production and support workers and farmers in the transition towards agro-ecology," said Stanka Becheva, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

Greenpeace is calling for global meat and dairy reductions of 50 percent by 2050, although they consider that this figure should be higher in Europe - since Europeans consume almost the double amount of meat compared with the global average.

"Producing and consuming meat and dairy has massive environmental impacts and is a major driver of climate change, so to ignore this in the Farm to Fork strategy is baffling," said Greenpeace EU agriculture campaigner Sini Eräjää.

"It's time to start treating meat and dairy like other sources of pollution, and start talking about reduction targets," she added.

A special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the mitigation potential of plant-based diets for climate change.

"It would be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect," said Hans-Otto Pörtner, IPCC climatologist.

In fact, a recent study of the European Investment Bank (EIB) revealed earlier this year that 79 percent of Europeans are committed to cut down red meat consumption to limit global warming.

Meanwhile, the EU has come recently under fire for promoting meat and dairy consumption while vowing to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 - the main objective of the EU's Green Deal.

Earlier this month, the Dutch animal welfare group Wakker Dier revealed that EU institutions spent €60m in the past three years to promote eating meat in 21 separate campaigns.

"We understand that you need to consider the interests of producers but not by completing ignoring the interests of consumers and the climate," said Sjoerd van de Wouw, a researcher at Wakker Dier.

According to EU sources, the commission is still working on the content of the long-awaited Farm to Fork Strategy - which will be unveiled on 25 March.

However, according to the senior head of policy at NGO BirdLife, Ariel Brunner, the draft strategy seems to contain "rhetorical flourishes with no real action".

"Food and agriculture are at the heart of the ecological crisis. This is one area where doing right by the planet means doing right by people in the most obvious way," he added.

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