EU leaders should be telling us to eat less meat, say campaigners | Environment

The EU is facing calls to overhaul its industrial farming sector by promoting more plant-based diets in the next common agricultural policy (CAP), as budget negotiations approach a crunch point.

Policy moves could face strong opposition from top officials who reportedly see “no evidence whatsoever” of large-scale linkages between livestock farming and greenhouse gas emissions.

But a coalition of 20 green groups has written to EU leaders demanding a policy review of health and environmental impacts from intensive animal farming, ahead of the EU’s proposal for the next seven years of CAP funding on 29 May.

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“It is imperative for the EU to step up and change its policies to accelerate a transition towards healthy and sustainable diets that are higher in plant-based foods and include considerably less and better produced meat, dairy and eggs,” says the letter, which is co-signed by WWF, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

The missive to Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk demands a “comprehensive assessment” of health and environmental impacts from industrial animal farming sector, and “clear policy recommendations”.

Nine billion animals are reared for food in the EU each year. The alarm has been raised that the use of antibiotics by farmers on some farms could fuel an explosion in Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR), and the farming sector also contributes up to 17% of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Marco Contiero, Greenpeace’s EU agriculture policy director, told the Guardian: “Our call is intended to ensure that the upcoming CAP proposals contain a germ of measures that can drive a transition to a different system, because it is time for the politicians to act.”

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has listed the livestock sector among the top three contributors to the world’s worst environmental problems, at every scale. Yet campaigners say that the EU’s approach to the issue has been tardy, indifferent and bordering on denial.

Earlier this month, Greenpeace proposed a global 50% cut in meat and dairy products by 2050, but farming lobbies and the fear of raising Eurosceptic hackles may limit the uptake for such ideas in Brussels.

One European commission paper on food waste from 2014 was sat on by the EU’s top brass at the last minute, after a mild reference to increasing the plant-based quotient in public diets was seen as too prescriptive.

A source involved in high-level EU food policy decisions, told the Guardian: “The first thing needed from the agricultural sector is recognition that a problem exists, even if it was created in good faith.”

“Once you say that, you create the conditions for a transition to a more sustainable agriculture and food system. This would certainly be in the public interest, and the CAP could and should support that transition.”

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