Call to end EU promotion of meat and dairy receives noncommittal response

A  letter from 67 scientists, including Jane Goodall, calling on the European Commission to stop EU-funded promotion of meat and dairy products, has received an unsatisfactory response from European Commissioner, Janusz Wojchiechowski.

This call was made  after data revealed that Europe spends around 60 million euros of taxpayers’ money per year to advertise meat and dairy, despite the EU’s stated commitment to increase the adoption of plant-based diets as part of the EU’s climate goals. 

Campaigns such as Let’s Talk About Pork and Become A Beefatarian have been explicitly aimed at increasing meat consumption in the name of helping the EU’s animal-agriculture sector stay competitive, though these industries have been identified as major contributors to the global carbon emissions identified as key causes of climate change.

In his response to the letter, Wojchiechowski acknowledges that ‘Moving to a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat and with more fruits and vegetables will reduce not only risks of life- threatening diseases, but also the climate and environmental impact of the food system.’

Wojchiechowski also acknowledged that ‘the EU food system needs to become a global standard for sustainability. The new promotion policy should therefore become a powerful tool to promote sustainably produced European food and in consequence, strengthen the competitiveness of those operators who deliver sustainable food.’

Pandora’s sustainability box

Although we welcome the Commissions’ aim to move towards more plant-based diets, we fear that the interpretation of what ‘sustainability’ actually means is currently being hijacked by corporate interests. As such, it’s time to reclaim sustainability. 

European Commissioner Wojchiechowski states in his response that ‘In relation to meat, the Farm to Fork Strategy announced that the upcoming promotion policy review should focus on ‘how the EU can use its promotion program to support the most sustainable, carbon-efficient methods of livestock production.’

With our current consumption rates there can be no such thing as sustainable meat and dairy production. As Wojchiechowski explains in his letter ‘European citizens consume much more than the recommended intake of animal protein per year.’ If anything were to be promoted with taxpayers money, it should be to consume less meat and dairy and to move towards consuming a more sustainable diet, which science has repeatedly shown to be plant-based. In the absence of any concrete evidence put forward that the animal-based campaigns promoted by the EU are sustainable, we urge the commission, in line with the scientists’ request, to promote more plant-based diets instead to save the planet and to tackle the public health crisis. 

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