In this section we share opinion pieces from scientists, experts and livestock farmers, as well as letters of interest.

With the escalation of tensions following the war in Ukraine, the EU needs to break its energy dependency on Russian gas. These days, the energy markets are soaring, bringing the gas prices to record values while its availability remains in the hands of Russian authorities. Among the EU fossil fuel dependency from Russia, gas is the worst, with imports counting over 45% of our total consumption. A rapid transition to clean gas – in every meaning of the word – has never been so urgent, both for our sovereignty and the climate.

Faced with the need for swift action, the European Commission has presented the REPowerEU communication last week ahead of the Versailles summit. This communication represents the second European response to the energy crisis, updating, so to speak, the much publicised “Fit for 55” strategy of summer 2021. The aim is to support the diversification of energy supplies, accelerate the transition to renewable energy, and improve energy efficiency in the shortest time possible.

Executive Vice-President Timmermans set the objective to reduce imported gas from Russia by 2/3 by the end of the year. In this regard, the logical solution is to push the accelerator on renewable energy starting with biomethane and clean hydrogen production. In addition to doubling the target on renewable hydrogen production, heat pumps, wind, and solar energy, one of the critical pillars of the strategy is to multiply biomethane production by ten times in a few years. By doing so, the EU has the potential to replace 20% of the current natural gas imports from Russia by a sustainable, cheaper, and locally produced alternative.

Biomethane, as part of the biogas production, is obtained by the ‘digestion’ of organic materials, such as manure, organic waste, or agricultural residues. Today the EU produces 3 billion cubic metres (bcm) of biomethane. Scaling-up to 35 bcm as announced requires the mobilisation of sustainable biomass feedstock, mostly waste and residues. According to the European Biogas Association figures; manure mobilisation from livestock represents the greatest potential for a sustainable increase of biomethane production by 2030 as far as – up to 45%! 30% of sustainably mobilised residues would come from the rest of the agricultural sector while a limited share of the future production could come from the management of our food waste (5%) and industrial wastewater (8%). In other words, the biomethane produced by livestock farms is becoming a strategic priority within the 2030 horizon.

However, to reach this potential, a silent revolution will have to take place on our farms. The European Biogas Association estimates that we will need to build about 5,000 new biomethane plants!  This objective is feasible if we consider that Germany alone has built 6,000 plants in 9 years. . From a technical perspective, experts estimate that it would be feasible within the next eight years. A quick fix which would also be easier and cost effective is to equip existing biogas installations (representing a 17 bcm biogas production output today) with methanation units. One of the main obstacles for the farming community is often the lengthy administrative procedures before such facilities can be set up. The Commission has announced in its communication that it will make efforts to reduce the time needed to obtain permits.

The stakes are therefore enormous, and the benefits for society could be manifold. Developing biomethane solutions would be cost-effective as the €83 billion needed for the biomethane upscale by 2030, would be money fuelled directly into our domestic economy. It allows us to produce biomethane at a cost that is considerably lower than the natural gas price over the past several months, even without taking the CO2 price into account.

Finally, biomethane and biogas production helps to reduce exposure to food price volatility. In fact, gas is obtained from a feedstock, placed inside a digester, a silo for the degradation of the organic substance. During the biogas production process, we obtain a nutrient rich product called digestate. This can be used as a fertiliser which could help partly break the dependency on Russian synthetic fertiliser imports. On top of that, digestate as organic fertliser, prevents the use of natural gas for the production of chemical fertlisers, reducing dependency on natural gas and at the same time avoiding considerable amounts of GHG emissions. Considering that Russia is the world’s leading exporter of fertilisers, with more than 50 million tonnes of fertiliser a year, 13% of the world total, boosting the digestate from livestock farming is an unmissable opportunity.

Once again, here is another excellent reason why the EU should preserve its livestock and animal production. Indeed, more than ever before, the EU’s livestock and animal production must be valued and enhanced as an essential tool to achieve energy, self-sufficiency and to accelerate the green transition. To reduce emissions and the dependence on fossil fuel imports, protect against rising prices and make a valuable contribution against climate change, adding new impetus to the objectives of the European Green Deal.

Veterinary care on livestock farm

European farmers and veterinarians are making great efforts to reduce the need to use antibiotics. They have been very successful so far. The livestock sector has made great strides to limit the use of antibiotics and make a valuable contribution to ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics. But further efforts are needed from all sectors to ensure a “One Health” response to addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Any restrictions to use of antibiotics for livestock in order to protect human health must remain science-based so as not to endanger animal health and welfare. According to ECDC 75% of AMR-related infections come from hospitals and health facilities. Clearly, even if we stopped all antibiotic use in animals, the impact on the human antimicrobial resistance problem would not be significant.

This is why calling for ever more restrictive policies on antibiotic use for animals is non-sensical, especially in the EU where 94% of Eurobarometer respondents say it’s important to protect the welfare of farmed animals.

Recently, the FVE (Federation of Veterinarians of Europe) took note of such calls in a report titled ‘Ending Routine farm antibiotic use in Europe’, published by the EPHA (European Public Health Alliance). This report spreads an unfounded assumption – some might say fake news – that farmers will not adopt the new rules on antibiotic use. The FVE reacted to this report, highlighting the many initiatives taken over the last 15 years for combatting the emergence of antibiotic resistance and the preservation of effective antibiotics for people and animals.

The target proposed in the EPHA report to set a maximum level of 30 mg/kg per population correction unit (PCU) to be later decreased to 15 mg/kg PCU is not only unscientific, it’s also unrealistic, as in every country, there are differences in the occurrence and spread of bacterial diseases, animal population, etc. Animals, when needed, deserve treatment, just like people. When they get sick, animals have the right to be treated in the best possible way to avoid unnecessary suffering. In this context, antibiotics remain the only solution for treating bacterial infections in animals, just as in people. And it should always be up to the veterinarian to decide the optimum way to administer medication, which remains under veterinary control and prescription.

It is necessary to use antibiotics more sparingly in all areas to address the rise in antimicrobial resistance. Still, this challenge requires coordinated, strategic and scientific action with a One Health approach. The EU regulation on veterinary medicines, approved more than two years ago by the European Parliament, takes strict measures to reduce the use of antibiotics to protect both animal and public health. This is promoted by the Commission to be an effective tool to help achieve the “Farm to Fork” strategy goal of reducing by 50% antibiotic sales by 2030.

The efforts made so far in the livestock sector in Europe are widely recognised and measurable. Animal health and welfare standards are higher in the EU than anywhere else in the world. The EU has stringent inspections on residues of veterinary medicines and contaminants in animal source food and an overall monitoring system, which show a compliance of the sector with all safety standards close to 100%. The veterinarian’s responsibility is to assess the farm animal’s health, diagnose, and prescribe the correct treatment, just as medical doctors do for people. Awareness in farmers and veterinarians of the damage caused by the abuse of antibiotics has been increasing over the past years. In 2005, the European Platform for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Animals – EPRUMA was created in synergy with veterinarians, farmers and the animal health industry. Since then, sales of veterinary antibiotics have fallen by more than 43%.

ESVAC report 2020

In fact the EMA’s recent ESVAC report showed an overall 43.2% drop in sales of veterinary antibiotics since 2011. And these efforts extend not only to the amounts of antibiotics used for animal health purposes but also to the classes of antibiotics used. The report shows a significant decrease in sales of veterinary antibiotics considered important from the medical point of view: 32.8% for third and fourth generation cephalosporins; 76.5% for polymyxins, 12.8% for fluoroquinolones and 85.4% for other quinolones.

That is why an even more stringent ban on antibiotics in animals than scientifically judged will have little effect on antibiotic resistance resolution. On the contrary, there is a high risk of a counterproductive effect. Dependence on a strictly limited number of antibiotics to treat animals’ infections will increase the pressure on bacteria, accelerating resistance to those few antibiotics available.

The new EU rules on veterinary medicines in force since January 2022 establish some new restrictions on the use of antibiotics. For example, all antibiotics for animals remain prescription-only throughout the EU, but the new rules are more explicit on prescriptions for preventive use. Preventive use remains prohibited, except for a single animal or a limited number of animals, in cases where the risk of infection is very high and the consequences are severe. The new current laws are also maintaining the ban on antibiotics to promote growth, in force since 2006.

Antibiotics may not be used on all the herd, but only to treat a limited group of animals, also when the group’s risk of spreading infectious disease is high, and no alternatives are available. The use of antibiotics should be limited to cover the risk of infection and only after the veterinarian’s diagnosis. A key initiative in the new law is the creation of a list of antibiotics reserved for human health, published on the basis of the EMA’s scientific advice.  The new legislation also states that restrictions on antibiotics and the ban on the use of treatments classified as essential for human health will also apply to producers in third countries exporting animals or animal source foods to the EU.

To ensure further efforts to keep antibiotics working European veterinarians and farmers require support to maximise preventive approaches, such as vaccination, selective breeding, good nutrition, including the use of specialty feed ingredients to support animals’ defences against biological stressors for optimal health and higher resilience to stressors, environmental hygiene, biosecurity measures, monitoring for signs of infection and the use of diagnostic tools. It is also important in this context to explore the potential of new genomic techniques.

The best way forward is through recognising that the health of people, animals and the environment are closely connected and must be addressed collectively. But the “One Health” concept is often misunderstood, as this does not mean subordinating animal health to public health by only looking at how health challenges in animals will impact people.

The strong commitment of the livestock sector to improve the health and welfare of farm animals has led to the implementation of best practices, with significant progress in many European countries. Raising awareness and collaboration with stakeholders, monitoring antibiotics effectiveness, and the need to use them has achieved a marked reduction in antibiotic use in animals. The 2019 European Court of Auditors report on AMR recognised the progress already made in the animal sector, and the multi-stakeholder platform EPRUMA (European Platform for Responsible Use of Medicines in Animals) says the European livestock sector continues to work on further reducing the need for antibiotics. Only in this way can we strengthen the responsible use of antibiotics for animal health and play a part in addressing the challenge of antimicrobial resistance.

Do you remember the Danish chickens? The story about noise vs transparency and promises vs actions? A quick recap: last November, the animal rights association Anima promised 500,000 Danish kroner to the farmer who dared to open the doors of his farm to show their animals. The chicken breeder Solveig Nõrmark and her husband Jens Kristian accepted with pleasure the challenge at the initiative of the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, opening the doors of their chicken coop. They proudly showed their reality 24 hours a day via live webcams, streaming from their chicken farm for 34 days, more than 800 hours.

Despite the evidence, the animal rights activists finally decided to pay a tiny part of the promised compensation: only 50,000 Danish kroner. The 500,000 were supposed to go to the children of the Christmas stamp homes at Julemærkehjemmene, while now they will receive just 30,000 kroner. The remaining 20,000 will be given to the OASA animal rights organization that had a legal dispute with Danish Agriculture & Food Council.

According to what Anima stated in a press release, the initiative of the Danish Agriculture & Food Council to broadcast live to the public what is happening in the chicken coop was appreciated. Still, they said they had some doubts about transparency. “The initiative lands a good distance away from what we called for”, comments Thorbjõrn Schiõnning, communications manager at Anima: “We want to go all the way into the barn and record up close and follow the individual chicken. That is why our original offer with a bounty of half a million kroner for free access is still in force”.

Martin Hjort Jensen, chairman of Danish Agriculture and Food, Poultry, disagrees: “We are very sorry that they [Anima] ended up with DKK 30,000 on behalf of the Christmas Stamp Foundation and the children”. The breeder Solveig Nõrmark who opened her chicken farm to Anima is also disappointed: “I have never done it for the sake of the bounty, but I would like to hope that the Christmas stamp homes had received the bounty of 500,000 kroner. It is an excellent cause and a place with a good need for money”.

“We have proudly, openly, and unedited shown the reality via live streaming from a broilers house for 34 days, that is, for more than 800 hours of film“, says Henrik Søndergaard Nielsen from the Danish Agriculture & Food Council: “The live streaming showed the chickens in two different angles. One closeup in the height of a chicken and one giving an overview of the stable. Furthermore, we showed the data related to the stable, water – and feed consumption and the total number of chickens in the stable by the day. We have brought facts to the fore, but the question is whether Anima was interested in facts or just wanted a marketing stunt. That they will now give DKK 30,000, the 6 per cent of the bounty, says it all. We don’t see why Anima is still offering a bounty of DKK 500.000 as we have already provided the public with the best access possible. Maybe the proper conditions that we have streamed unedited did not meet their predefined false picture of modern chicken farming?”

The truth is that animal rights activism is essentially just a megabusiness. They look like moderate and non-profit associations aiming to improve the welfare of animals, but their actual goals go much deeper, with extreme forms of activism. All animal rights extremist organizations have the same goal of eliminating animal agriculture and taking meat, milk, poultry, and eggs off our tables. They also finance projects supported with a lot of funding. To mention a few examples, some of the most active groups bring in more than $650 million in income annually. The flow of funds connects these organizations through sponsorships and grants awarded to one another.

PETA, for example, is connected to the extreme group Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) as a sponsor of DXE’s 2021 Animal Liberation Conference. They use the farm “rescues,” where activists will openly trespass onto a farm and steal an animal with the support of PETA. Also, Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is one of the most extreme groups, identified as a “domestic terrorist” by the FBI. Their actions include breaking, releasing animals, and destroying property. Sensitive organizations like HSUS recruit vandals involved in ALF. No matter the organization’s public appearance, most animal rights groups chase the same goal and support each other, including destruction, harassment, trespassing, and stealing. From Danish Children’s charities, too?

Opinion piece from Somos Ganaderia on #MenosCarneMásVida

(See original opinion in Spanish)

21 July 2021 – The interbranch meat organisations of Spain, representing hundreds of thousands of livestock farmers, as well as companies, workers and experts throughout Spain in the livestock and meat sectors, have joined forces to express our outrage at the #MenosCarneMásVida (in Spanish: ‘less meat, more life’) campaign, which is smearing the entire livestock and meat sectors.

It is concerning to see misleading or vague claims being made through public channels, in an attempt to pit everyone against the livestock and meat sectors, which play a key socioeconomic role in our country. According to the FAO, our sector generates in excess of 2.5 million jobs in Spain alone and almost 9 billion euros in exports, bolstering the country’s balance of trade.

Using data in such a self-serving way –considering there is an abundance of data available from the Spanish Government itself, in addition to official consumption data from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; or data from the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory– is irresponsible.

The sector that we represent will continue its awareness-raising efforts and advocacy work by presenting hard evidence, such as the following:

● When claims are made about how overconsumption of meat has led to an increase in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even some types of cancer, it must be made crystal clear that all global indicators show Spain’s diet and lifestyle to be among the best in the world, positioning our country as a global leader in this regard, as you can see below:

  • Spain is the healthiest country in the world (according to the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index).
  • Spain is the country with the highest life expectancy in the world (according to the IHME at the University of Washington and the authoritative scientific journal ‘The Lancet’).
  • Spain is the country with the highest life expectancy in the European Union (according to the European Commission report entitled ‘State of Health in the EU 2019’).
  • Spain has a cancer rate well below the average out of all OECD countries (according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study entitled ‘Health at Glance 2019’).

● When claims are made about how 15,000 litres of water are required to produce 1 kg of meat, it should be made crystal clear that 90% of the water used in meat production is ‘green water’, i.e. rainwater, and there would still be rainfall even if there were no animals; only 10% is ‘blue water’ or ‘grey water’, which is much less than what goes into numerous crops.

● When claims are made about how 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) come from livestock, it is paramount to emphasise the following:

  • Livestock and manure production account for only 5.8% of emissions (Climate Watch and World Resources Institute, Our World in Data. Oxford University. 2020).
  • Energy use, whether in the form of electricity or heat, or whether as part of transport or industrial processes, accounts for the majority (74%) of greenhouse gas emissions. The global food system, which encompasses post-harvest production and processes such as processing and supply, accounts for the remaining 26% of emissions. In addition, of that 26%, livestock and fisheries account for only one third [of emissions] (Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek. Science, 2018).
  • Out of all greenhouse gas emissions from livestock in the world, 80% come from developing countries (FAO, 2017). When we look at the overall emissions landscape, it is necessary to have a global and not an EU-centred approach so that our contributions to climate change mitigation may be properly considered.
  • Emission intensity (CO2 eq/kg meat) varies between different parts of the world. In our region, i.e. Western Europe, we have one of the lowest emission intensity rates in the world (FAO, 2017). Our production systems are highly efficient in the way we use and manage animal feed and animal health. As a result, we produce fewer emissions per unit of final product.
  • According to official data from the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, livestock meat production in Spain accounts for only 7.8% of total GHG emissions in our country. In contrast, transport accounts for 27% of these emissions, followed by industrial sectors (19.9%), power generation (17.8%), fuel consumption (8.5%) or industrial processes and use of other products (8%), as per data from the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge [in Spanish: MITECO], 2020.
  • Significantly, methane produced in farming accounts for about 27% of the total methane emitted globally. This methane goes into a biogenic cycle where it is broken down and transformed into CO2 and H2O over a period of 12 years, to be later absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. Given that livestock census figures remain stable, our livestock sector’s CO2 emissions into the atmosphere do not increase over time and so they do not contribute to global warming to the same extent that fossil fuel consumption is. Therefore, the fact that our emissions are going down means that we are contributing to climate change mitigation, the same way other economic sectors are.

● When claims are made as to how ‘antibiotics overuse is jeopardising their efficacy in both animals and humans’, it should be made crystal clear that:

  • Use of antibiotics as growth-promoters in farm animals has been banned since 2006 (Directive 2001/82/EC and its subsequent amendments). Only occasionally, as is also the case in humans, is it necessary to treat food-producing animals for bacterial diseases. Responsible use of medicinal products ensures animal welfare, also making sure food produced by these animals is safe and healthy.
  • European legislation regulates which medicines can be used to treat animals and how to use them. Thus, only medicines that have been authorised after having successfully cleared a science-based risk assessment can be used.
  • This has also been confirmed by the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products [in Spanish: AEMPS] indicating that sales of veterinary antibiotics in Spain decreased by 13.6% in 2019, i.e. a 58.8% reduction between 2014 and 2019 (National Antibiotic Resistance Plan).
  • In Europe, according to the latest report of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) on the monitoring of residues of veterinary medicinal products and other substances in animals and products of animal origin, the level of non-compliance was a mere 0.30% in 2019. Hence, EFSA concluded that the level of compliance is high, and that the European surveillance system is robust and contributes to consumer protection.

The farming sector is working on multiple sectorial initiatives to support the country in its efforts to recover from the effects of the pandemic. These initiatives include strong commitments in the areas of sustainability and the transition towards climate neutral and circular production models, as well as creation of quality jobs, fostering local cohesion and equal opportunities, and promoting balanced and healthy eating habits for all.

We would like to underscore, once again, the extent to which livestock farming for meat production contributes to job creation and generates opportunities, in addition to promoting strong environmental commitments to deliver verifiable results. As sector representatives, we will continue to engage in institutional cooperation and dialogue, and trust our public policy decision-makers to do likewise and contribute, through their actions and words, to fostering an atmosphere of mutual understanding.

Signatory organisations:

Asociación Interprofesional del Cerdo Ibérico (ASICI)
(Interbranch Association for the Iberian Pig)

Asociación Interprofesional Española de Carne Avícola (AVIANZA)
(Spanish Interbranch Association for Poultry)

Organización Interprofesional para el Impulso del Sector Cunícola (INTERCUN)
(Interbranch Organisation for the Promotion of the Rabbit Sector)

Interprofesional Agroalimentaria del Ovino y Caprino (INTEROVIC)
(Interbranch Organisation for the Sheep and Goat Industry)

Organización Interprofesional del Porcino de Capa Blanca (INTERPORC)
(Interbranch Organisation for White-Capped Pigs)

Organización Interprofesional de la Carne de Vacuno (PROVACUNO)
(Interbranch Organisation for Beef and Veal)

With the support of the ‘Somos Ganadería’ (We Are Livestock Farming) Alliance

Another week of debate on the Farm to Fork studies in Brussels ends with…the need for more studies!

Brussels, 27 January 2022 – This week, again, the European agricultural news has partly revolved around the question of the studies on the impact of the Farm to Fork strategy, whether it be the hearing with Julien Denormandie in the European Parliament or the official academic release of the two studies by the University of Wageningen, one of which, dedicated to the impacts on the livestock sector, was commissioned by the members of the European Livestock Voice. 

However, the most significant event of the week was the debate organised in the European Parliament on Tuesday on the subject. If I had to pick one statement to summarise, out of the two-hour debate, I would keep the conclusion of the chairman of the agriculture committee, Norbert Lins, “The studies already on the table bring different points of view, which is useful, but we need an impact study(s) (ndlr. from the European Commission)”. 

So we need more studies. Yes, that is undeniable. I agree with the many MEPs who have spoken in this direction. I would even add one comprehensive public European study. But this is not the direction that is currently being taken. The Commission, through its representative for agriculture, Commissioner Wojciechowski, already announced a few months ago – perhaps offhandedly – that there would not be an overall study on the impact of the targets proposed in the Green Deal, but a series of studies on the different objectives. However, one of the lessons from the Wageningen studies is that these different targets do have cumulative and combined effects. Impact studies on each of the legislative proposals will not give any insight into what will really happen tomorrow in our stables, in imported containers, on our farm financial accounts and the price people see on the shelf! On the other hand, it is difficult to hear from the Commission that conducting such a study won’t be feasible. If you can put policy targets of this magnitude, you should be able to assess their impact! It’s as simple as that.

I also noticed that the time needed for science does not necessarily line up with the time needed for communication or politics. A study would take more time, whereas we know that this year the Commission will already present 24 of the 28 legislative translations of the Farm to Fork communication. Without being a soothsayer, I can still predict that in a few months we will find ourselves in the same situation as last October, when the EU voted on the initial Farm to Fork communication; the Parliament and the Council will have to take a position, without having a global study that we have been calling for for over a year. Will the Parliament and Council react at this point or will they accept the same time pressures from the Commission? 

In Tuesday’s debate, some Green MEPs also used the argument that these studies were funded by “lobbies”. This is a convenient argument for ignoring the studies, but it’s a bit short-sighted. On the one hand, you could read from this remark that the independence of scientists is called into question. But moreover, it simply or perhaps intentionally skips over the central question: why did we decide to ask for this study in the first place? Because there was no publication by the Commission or its research centre on its flagship policy! Political objectives had been set, without an explanation of the basis for them or consideration of the consequences. Should we then just sit back and wait? 

Finally, I found this debate interesting for the blind spots it raises. Some MEPs have rightly pointed out that the question of changes in diet or the fight against food waste should be considered and that this had not been envisaged in studies such as the Wageningen study. This is a fact and work needs to be done, particularly by the Commission, in this respect. But, as a livestock farmer, I would be keen to see this argument applied to all the targets and initiatives that are being piled up in the Green Deal, whether it be the methane, soil, or biodiversity initiatives. Once again, as a farmer, I don’t need to be a mind reader to know that they will also have very significant impacts.  

With my colleagues from the livestock sector, just like the MEPs on Tuesday, we are now waiting for the Commission’s concrete proposals. If we have been very vocal about the global objectives up till now, in the coming months we will be entering the core of this Farm to Fork discussion. We will have to talk (finally) about the solutions, the agronomic and technological options and the concrete measures to take. We are waiting for the beginning of what is, for me, a new Farm to Fork sequence. If we have disagreements and doubts about this target-based approach on one hand, we are nevertheless convinced that there are changes to be made in livestock farming and in agriculture more generally. We must play our part in these changes, and we will actively participate in these discussions and try to bring our answers, those from the field, to this key debate.

The Opinion Piece can be found here in FR.

European Livestock Voice

About us:
European Livestock Voice ( is a multi-stakeholder group of like-minded EU partners united to bring back a balanced debate around a sector that is playing such an essential role in Europe’s rich heritage and future. The associations represent sectors ranging from animal health to feed, to breeding and animal farming and farmers; together they aim to inform the public about the social value of livestock production and its contribution to global challenges, offering another perspective in the ongoing debates.

Contact persons:
Jean-Baptiste Boucher, Copa-Cogeca +32 474 84 08 36
Clare Carlisle, AnimalhealthEurope +32 474 38 87 11

On the 5th of November 2021 the animal rights NGO “Anima” launched a challenge for the Danish poultry sector. With a desire to show the Danish public how bad conventional farming is,the NGO, through an advertising campaign, promised € 67.000 (DKK 500,000) to the poultry farmer who would be willing to show their barns to the public.

The Danish Agriculture & Food Council took up the challenge with gusto, and Solveig Nộrmark, who runs her poultry farm with her husband Jens Kristian in western Jutland, welcomed people into the chicken coop via video camera. Via their website, it is possible to see what happens in real-time in the stable. Two cameras sitting at different heights and angles give a good overview of the barn, so anyone can follow the lives of approximately 32,000 chickens via livestream 24 hours a day.

Live data is also shared via this system, such as temperature, number of chickens, water and food consumption, or age in days. From the comfort of their homes Danes can now check in to see that the animals’ ventilation, drinking, and feeding systems are demonstrating good health and welfare. And European Livestock Voice took the opportunity to interview Henrik Søndergaard Nielsen from the Danish Agriculture and Food Council about this interesting story.

“What this story is telling us is that in Denmark we want to make sure that people from urban areas understand where the poultry comes from when they buy it at the supermarket”, says Nielsen. “We want to make people in the cities aware of how life is in the countryside, and what happens with the food they put on the table. Anima and the general public don’t know what goes on on the farms. Unfortunately, we are working with many myths and rumours about how farm life works. That’s why we were willing to be very open, offering everybody an opportunity to watch livestock farming in reality. We allow everybody to see first-hand what is happening to broilers on the farm and their progression. You can see that they are doing fine, eating well, sleeping, and moving around. Hopefully after this we can openly address the rumours and myths that we read in articles, often written by people who had never been to a farm.”

So, the lesson is that farmers have nothing to hide! Now the Danish Agriculture & Food Council is looking forward to receiving the award from Anima, as they intend to donate it to the Danish charity organisation Julemaerkefonden, which helps socially disadvantaged children. But is Anima really willing to pay the money advertised? “Well, yesterday they told a Danish magazine that they are reconsidering the payment and will have an internal discussion about that” – Nielsen answered regretfully – “We don’t want that money for us. We wanted to donate it to children.”

This story from Denmark is a double whammy for the livestock sector. It shows that not only are farms operating in respect of animal health and welfare, but also that for some judgemental parties, there is often a considerable gap between preaching about ethics and concrete actions. After the noise made and the promise of the money, it would be ironic to see the animal rights NGO Anima refusing to give it to the children. If it does transpire that they don’t keep their word, says Nielsen, “poultry companies and industries will donate this money for the children anyway.” An essential ethical lesson learnt.

Healthy food. Dairy products on the table

Something is moving in the area of consumer protection. In several legal cases designations of plant-based products likening to animal source foods have been forbidden to use the animal product names. This happened recently in Germany, where the start-up “The Hempany“, producer of plant-based drink from hemp seeds, had called their product “Milck“, clearly referencing the real cow’s milk. According to the court, the name “Milck” goes against the EU regulation protecting product names for milk and milk products. Unfortunately, such rules are still missing for the meat sector, where the debate on meat-sounding names is still open.

The German court strengthens consumer protection. The ruling is clear: “Milck” is too close to “milk” or the German word “Milch”, and the product is far away from sharing the nutritional qualities of milk. That was the judgment of the Stuttgart court: the name “Milck” cannot be used to refer to a plant-based drink that is not milk because it is a source of confusion for consumers, who deserve clarity and transparency instead. This is a new victory against misleading labels, similar to the story from  England with Oatly, a producer of plant-based drinks from oats.

Here, too, the UK Advertising Standards Authority ASA banned Oatly’s marketing campaign, arguing that its claims were not scientifically proven and were misleading for consumers. Oatly argued that following a vegan diet would reduce a person’s environmental impact more than giving up flying, buying an electric car, or buying sustainable meat and dairy products. All false statements and not supported by scientific studies, according to the ASA.

Indeed, in examining this issue, the ASA said that Oatly overestimated the meat and milk industry emissions. In the comparison with transport it had not considered emissions from the whole life cycle of transport, but only direct emissions of vehicles, probably the most common error made when comparing emissions.

Similarly, the Center against Unfair Competition in Frankfurt has decided that German start-up “The Hempany” cannot use the fancy name “Milck” for advertising its vegan drink under the slogan “let’s milk hemp seeds instead of cows”. The product is far from having the nutritional qualities of natural milk, and plant-based drinks are not comparable in any way to real cow’s milk, neither for dietary values nor for health benefits.

This marketing between bashing and imitation is questionable, as there can be room for both dairy products and vegetable juices without the two necessarily coming into conflict. A good example of this was the development of vegetable margarine alongside butter. 

The issue of confusion is also far from being annecdotal, a 2018 CNIEL study in France had shown that among consumers already 1 in 2 thought that milk and plant juices provided the same nutrients and 1 in 5 thought that these juices met the needs of babies. These naming issues will increase in the coming years with the proliferation of plant-based and purely synthetic substitutes.

The market of plant-based products proposed as substitutes of animal source foods is expanding, and, in Germany for example, more and more people are switching from the classic cow’s milk, to drinking vegetable products based on soy, almonds or oats. According to the Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (BLE), consumption last year was almost 50 kilograms per capita. But the Stuttgart start-up is not giving up and has appealed. “We are very disappointed with the decision of the Court of Justice”, explains Dave Tjiok, CEO at The Hempany GmbH: “Consumer behaviour has changed radically, and one thing is certain: we will continue to make noise“.

On the other hand, the European Dairy Association,commented: “The ruling is clear: dairy terms are protected at EU level, safeguarding consumers’ nutritional and quality expectations. The German plant-based company was trying to blur the lines between their product and real milk, but there is no comparison in terms of nutritional quality – plant-based products cannot provide the full nutritional benefits that come naturally from milk. To protect consumers, we must have rules that avoid that people are misled about what to buy. Trying to imitate the uniqueness of our milk and dairy products is simply a threat to consumers’ capability of making properly informed choices”.

In a decision released last week, Portuguese authorities banned the term “vegan leather” –  the latest story in a string of problematic plant-based denomination issues. After the prohibition to call plant-based drinks “milk”, leather companies are now also protected from misleading denominations that use the terms “vegan”, “plant”, or even “synthetic” alongside with the word “leather” in their marketing. Their use is illegal, and the authorities will sanction this practice from now on with fines and prosecution.

The new legislation states that terms such as “vegan leather” are technically incorrect and misleading for consumers, and it is imperative to protect the leather industry and consumers. The new “Leather Decree” defines how the term “leather” can be used in commercial enterprises. Supporters of the new Portuguese decree also cited the high plastic content of some primary alternative sheet materials, such as cactus-based “desserto” and pineapple-based “Piñatex“, which may be  questionable from a sustainability point of view too. So why are national authorities across the EU starting to put a spanner in the works of companies trying to market vegan alternatives? Why are vegan companies not simply creating new, fashionable denominations for products? The answers to these questions are often subtly eluded in media debates on the subject.

When vegan-oriented companies reference the original animal product, they clearly know what they are doing. Firstly, any good marketing specialist knows that establishing awareness or a cultural frame of reference around a product is complex, takes time and requires resources. Therefore, using a legal loophole is very tempting, as familiar terms have never needed legal protection until now. Yet the credibility of the leather sector is based on the work of thousands of tanners over the centuries. The reference universe related to leather is rich and directly linked to the materials’ notions, values, and properties (strength, tradition, naturalness, know-how, luxury, etc.). By using this denomination, it is this leather universe that is hijacked at a lower cost. Secondly, by marketing an oxymoron, such as the opposing concepts of “vegan” and “leather”, it also makes it possible to avoid referencing the real nature of the product for sale by enticing the consumer through its alternative – read better – option to the initial product. Practical! But yet pretty unfair.

Portugal joins other countries in Europe, such as Belgium, France, Italy, and Spain, where leather is legally protected. Hungary is also currently working on similar legislation, and other countries are considering following the same path to protect leather authenticity. In The Official Journal of the Republic of Portugal of January 4, 2022, the “Decree-Lei n.o 3/2022” was published, establishing the mandatory standards of the authenticity of the country’s leather. With this legislation, another EU Member State puts an end to misleading practices involving the hi-jacking of the term leather, including false descriptions such as ‘vegan leather’, ‘cactus leather’, ‘synthetic leather’, and artificial leather”.

The decree lays down the strict requirements for using these terms, stating that the term leather cannot be used in conjunction with qualifiers that contradict the intrinsic animal nature of leather. The leather authenticity legislation thus promotes the use of correct and truthful information for consumers, and breaking these rules constitutes an unfair commercial practice that must therefore be punished.

While we welcome this legal development in Portugal, in COTANCE we were expecting that the European Commission would finally decide to proceed to a long-awaited harmonisation of leather authenticity rules at EU level.” says the president of COTANCE Manuel Rios (Inpelsa). In fact, during the completion of the EU internal market in 1992, the European Commission harmonised national rules on textile denominations and footwear labelling. But, it did not do the same for leather. Such a failure at the EU level is finally being compensated by developing rules on leather authenticity at the national level.

The tone of vegan activists and manufacturers shows that we must persevere consistently in pushing forward authenticity. I see that they have a problem with transparency here because these so-called ‘Vegan leathers’ are plastic with some biological input, be it cactus, pineapple leaves, apple or grape peels – underlines COTANCE’s Secretary-General, Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano – It is crucial to preserve the cultural heritage of this industry, which, aside from having created top quality products out of a residue (waste) of the meat industry, leather defines our lifestyles. Ruining its authenticity would be a terrible mistake for European culture.”

Opinion Piece by European Livestock Voice

23 April 2021

Opinion: What Greenpeace’s latest report won’t tell you about the EU Promotion Policy

Italian friends, stop promoting your salamis and other parmesan. French colleagues, take no pride in being the country with 365 different cheeses. Austrian pals, hide your schnitzel. Spanish fellows, put away those dry cured hams that made your reputation. This was my first reaction reading the new Greenpeace self proclaimed ‘study’ on the promotion of European agricultural products by the European U nion. In essence, this document of 25 pages (pictures included) aims to demonstrate that “The European Union, despite its political ambitions with the Green Deal or the Farm to Fork Strategy, spent from 2016 2020 more than 250 million euros on the exclusive promotion of meat and dairy products, which would represent 32% of the global budget allocated to the promotion of agricultural products going to industrial farming” 1.

The quoted figure is meant to shock, to make a forceful impression in a tweet, but shocking statistics aside, what does this ‘report’ really tell us, or rather what doesn’t it tell us?

What this report does not say, first of all, is that its release is taking place in a specific context in which the European Union is currently discussing the evolution of its promotion policy, and in particular, how to promote even further the sustainability of farming practices to encourage EU farmers in their efforts for a more virtuous production. Farmers, cooperatives, agronomists and the scientific co mmunity have been multiplying their efforts to build an agriculture that is more respectful of the environment and animal welfare. Not to support this work would simply mean turning one’s back on those who invest themselves daily in their farms. Greenpeace won’t tell you that agriculture is one of the few sectors that has managed to reduce its CO2 emissions over the last 20 years, or that Europe has the highest standards of animal welfare in the world. What this report won’t consider is that if we decide to stop promoting European food production,
others won’t hesitate to continue doing so, and it will certainly be at the expense of farm animals and the environment in regions that do not even get close to the standards our farmers in Europe have to comply wi th. If we truly want an EU agriculture that is more sustainable than it already is, ostracising more than one third of its workers in favour of third country productions with a disregard for environmental concerns, will certainly not help.

Let’s talk about their figures and methodology. This ‘250 million euros over four years’, it only took an email from the European Commission to the editors of Politico to call it into question. In his answer, the European Commission official rightly says that it is diffi cult to make such an estimate since promotional policies are often not related to a specific product but to a basket of different products. Even if we look beyond this oversimplification, what the Greenpeace report has left out is that these 250 million eu ros, representing 32% of the budget dedicated to meat and dairy, is in line with the 38.6% value of the EU’s agricultural animal production in 2019. The same goes for fruit and vegetables. Greenpeace is saying that only 19% of the budget is dedicated to fr uit and vegetables, but it is in line with the value share of fruit and vegetables representing 20% of the value of the EU’s agricultural production. Moreover, it also has to be taken into account that in addition to the Promotion Policy, between 2017 and 2023, 150 extra million euros are dedicated to the promotion of fruits and vegetables in EU school’s through the Commission School Scheme programme programme2. Greenpeace also says that only 9% of the budget envelope goes to organic. Once again, this is completely i n line with the 8% share of organic. The conclusion that we can draw from this is that the EU promotion is entirely adapted to the realities of production in Europe. The reason for this is simple. It is up to the economic actors to request funds and set up a promotional campaign. If the funds are redistributed based on Greenpeace’s reasoning, then would all the funds be used? Will we see the budget envelope dedicated to the promotion of our valuable regional culinary heritage be reallocated to the promotion of vegan “nuggets” or “lab meat”?

The Greenpeace report attacks ‘industrial farming’ as the main recipient of the EU promotion policy funds. What Greenpeace will not say is that most of the budget for the internal market is dedicated to either geographi cal indications products, organic products or products sustainably produced3. For example, in 2019 the entire budget of the multi and simple programs for the internal market was dedicated to these three categories of products products4. What Greenpeace also won’t t ell you is that the average size of livestock farms in Europe is only 47 livestock units units5, and that the promotional policy has been designed at EU level to support these small operators to ensure that their products have an equal chance of being promoted a longside multinationals that have the resources to deploy huge marketing campaigns.

If we look at the whole of Greenpeace’s communication, this report is ultimately just part of a much larger agenda, being the ‘veganisation’ of our food. To do so, Greenp eace is promoting a very misleading idea that science is univocal in matters of the environment or health when it comes to livestock. What Greenpeace won’t mention is that many researchers are taking up the cause to challenge those claims claims6 7. As chance wou ld have it, on the same day that the Greenpeace report went out, two new studies were published that show no increased risk of heart disease, cancer, or early death from red meat meat8.

Finally, and perhaps the most important to me, Greenpeace has a vision of what a more vegan diet could look like, but what the report does not say is that the food giant lobby and stakeholders who are lining up behind the Greenpeace communication in Brussels also have a vision: promoting ultra processed, standardized and enginee red vegan products, which are less attractive from a nutritional point of view view9; or synthetic products, which may not be very appealing from an environmental point of view view10. To make those ‘alternatives’ accepted, marketing agencies behind those products kn ow that taste, nutrition or price are their strength, this is why it is so important to them to act on the value side of the equation. In the past, alternative products never used such a strategy to penetrate a market and both original and alternative prod ucts could cohabit like butter and margarine. The promised revolution will certainly not be the one promoted, and when we get there, there will be no turning back. Our farms and their know how will be gone.

What is at stake behind this whole subject of promotion policy is the vision for our future food system. Are we going to abandon part of our culinary heritage, our parmesan, our camembert’s, our sausages, our pork tenderloin, our prime rib in favour of synthetic food of which the culinary universe is populated by veggie ‘burgers’ and ‘nuggets’? When compared to the near €3, 100 million invested in plant based imitations products last year year12, what’s a mere €250 million invested over 4 years by the European Commission to promote and protect the EU’s culinary heritage?

In the end, this ‘study’, which lacks robust methodology and academic credibility, will join the series of reports of the same kind that attempt to give the impression of a factual consensus on the topic. This approach is sadly damagi ng to the European public debate as it feeds a kind of populism against the work put in place by the Commission and EU farmers to constantly improve the sustainability of EU agriculture. If applied, it could certainly result in an increase in imports from blocks like Mercosur, harming our regional culinary heritage while allowing big multinationals to promote their new product lines.

Jerzy Wierzbicki
Chairman of Copa-Cogeca working Party on Promotion Policy
Support of the European Livestock Voice, Carni Sostenibili and Somos Ganaderia

European Livestock Voice

The Opinion Piece can be found here in EN, IT, PL, ES.

[1] [2]   [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]  [11] [12] [13]  

About us:
European Livestock Voice ( is a multi-stakeholder group of like-minded EU partners united to bring back a balanced debate around a sector that is playing such an essential role in Europe’s rich heritage and future. The associations represent sectors ranging from animal health to feed, to breeding and animal farming and farmers; together they aim to inform the public about the social value of livestock production and its contribution to global challenges, offering another perspective in the ongoing debates.

Contact persons:

Jean-Baptiste Boucher, Copa-Cogeca +32 474 84 08 36
Clare Carlisle, AnimalHealthEurope +32 474 38 87 11
Florence Ranson, ELV + 32 477 49 26 90

Opinion Piece by European Livestock Voice

14 April 2021

Opinion: Banning all “cages” for farm animals – a theoretical concept and its actual consequences.

The idea of banning the use of cages in livestock farming is gaining some traction in various circles. It makes for a catchy headline to spread the idea that all enclosures are inherently bad for animals, but animal health and welfare are actually much more complex. This theory seems to omit the fact that the EU is world leader on animal welfare, because farmers have invested billions in it. We can see a path forward, and the livestock production chain is convinced that the debate about livestock housing must be qualified and scientifically validated.

Discussing cages would first require us to qualify the debate. As Camus once said, “naming things wrongly is adding to the world’s misery”. This quote is particularly relevant to the debate on cages in agriculture. In fact, it is interesting to notice that there is not even a clear definition of actual “cages” in the ‘End the Cage Age’ campaign that has been promoting their full removal. While simplification for communication purposes is understandable, it is obviously problematic when discussing the actual implementation of such a claim. Following calls for enriched cages as essential to animal welfare, in particular from NGOs, European farmers invested billions in these systems. Furthermore, there are in fact many different types of equipment and different uses for each. Some equipment is for instance used at particular stages of the animal’s life, like births or in case of veterinary control where barns could also be considered as cages.

In the end, proponents of a vague concept calling an end to all cages make it even more difficult for professionals to comment from a technical point of view or when considering its connection with animal welfare. It might sound obvious but different animal species have different ethological characteristics and housing systems are designed to suit them and their needs.

Barring the use of cages as a whole is not only an oversimplification; it can also have serious consequences on the health and welfare of animals. If the sows are not kept in a farrowing crate, their welfare might be increased, but at the same time this will affect the welfare of the piglets and increase piglet mortality unless extra attention is given.

European farmers have the highest animal welfare standards and have been working on increasing them since 1974. Still, they are prepared to go even one step further. But for that, a change in a housing system – and in the related policy-making – should be based on evidence and informed by on-farm tests and scientific experimentation with the animal at the centre. As animal ethicists have pointed out, it is strange to claim to wish to increase animal health and welfare by banning cages. Improving animal health and welfare is much more complex and should be assessed by looking at e.g. housing parameters, enrichments, animals’ ability to move freely, the risk of injuries and diseases, and more generally at the housing conditions throughout the different life stages of the animals. Science and facts should be the starting point, rather than emotions.

The ongoing debate also creates a perception that farmers are passive. Nothing could be further from the reality on the ground. Livestock farms are innovative places, constantly investing in improving their infrastructures and practices to keep up with new scientific evidence. Let’s take a concrete example: less than 10 years ago many farmers keeping laying hens changed from conventional laying hen cages, which are still a common practice in the rest of the world, to “European” enriched cages. Those cages were developed together with animal welfare experts and do not only provide additional space for each hen, but also help to ensure that layers can express their natural behaviour. And farmers did not stop there. This is only one of the numerous efforts farmers in all sectors are still making. European farmers invested billions of euros, rebuilding their farms and negotiating with national authorities to get the necessary permissions.

However, it should be said clearly: innovation comes at a price; research, development and implementation entail enormous and long-term costs for farmers. They can adapt to changes, but those also need to be economically viable. At the end of the day, there is a clear risk for EU farmers to become obsolete. There is also a definite possibility to just “delocalise” the core issue somewhere else in the globe, while at the same time increasing EU consumers’ dependence on products from less animal welfare friendly third countries.

Finally, it is worth noting that consumers’ approach to animal products changes significantly from theory to practice: in fact, while there is a general tendency to “humanise” animals, recent research (2020 Eurobarometer) shows that purchasing habits in the EU are still driven by factors like taste, food safety and price over sustainability and animal welfare. Changes in farming are only possible and sustainable long-term if they go hand in hand with the consumer’s acceptance to pay a premium and the retailers’ acceptance of fair-trading practices. Two terribly uncertain dimensions.

The word “cage” often has a negative connotation and generates a strong emotional response from the average consumer. Norms and ideals regarding animal treatment have entered the political and societal agenda, making the issue more intricate, raising dilemmas and inconsistencies. It is very easy to instinctively be against cages, but very few citizens have the opportunity to go visit a farm, read scientific studies, and talk to a farmer to hear the various points of view, understand how farms function in reality and what needs individual animals have at the different stages of their lives.

European Livestock Voice

About us:
European Livestock Voice ( is a multi-stakeholder group of like-minded EU partners united to bring back a balanced debate around a sector that is playing such an essential role in Europe’s rich heritage and future. The associations represent sectors ranging from animal health to feed, to breeding and animal farming and farmers; together they aim to inform the public about the social value of livestock production and its contribution to global challenges, offering another perspective in the ongoing debates.

Contact persons:
Clare Carlisle, AnimalHealthEurope +32 474 38 87 11
Jean-Baptiste Boucher, Copa-Cogeca +32 474 84 08 36
Florence Ranson, ELV + 32 477 49 26 90

Opinion Piece by Joe Healy

A European tax on meat: a proposal that could be as simplistic as counterproductive!

Brussels, 19 May 2020 – Last February in Brussels, the Dutch TAPP coalition (True Animal Protein Price) launched a new report from within the European Parliament proposing to introduce a tax on meat products. On paper the idea may seem simple at a first glance. Indeed, according to the proponents, with one single tax we would be able to resolve three ‘problems’: limit meat consumption in Europe, reduce European livestock and redirect specific sectors towards practices that have a lesser impact. In two words: a silver bullet!

This “silver bullet” has now reached the head of the European Commission. Tomorrow, the European Commission is planning to unveil an important part of its flagship vision on the European Green Deal – the Farm to Fork Strategy. Amongst the many things that this strategy will address are consumption patterns and consumer dietary choices, targeting more specifically the consumption of meat. As far as we are aware of, the approach considered by the Commission suggests that we stop the promotion of meat products, stop stimulating their production and impose a more targeted use of tax rules on meat.

Had livestock farmers had their say, had we taken a step back to think about this question in the context of trade agreements or European treaties, ultimately, had we taken the time to analyse this, this proposal would have seemed a lot more problematic and quite simply counterproductive. It has to be said time and time again, there is no such thing as a quick fix in farming!

This opinion piece is authored by Joe Healy,
Vice President of Copa and dairy and livestock farmer from Athenry, Co. Galway (IE).

Opinion Piece by European Livestock Voice

5 March 2021

Opinion: The European Livestock Sector’s views on the recent push for synthetic meat

Debates around livestock and meat consumption are on the rise in Europe as well as in other western countries. As European professionals of the livestock sector, we acknowledge this fact and are doing our best to take action on societal demands and environmental concerns. More progress can – and will – be achieved.

As the UN Food Systems Summit approaches, we notice a push for synthetic, lab-grown meat from different opinion leaders outside of the farming community. Perceived by them as a true solution to our environmental challenges, synthetic meat production is strongly promoted by tech tycoons among others, who have made powerful statements in favour of synthetic meat and are actively investing in the sector. This high-tech vision, for meat production which has been gaining traction in recent years is, paradoxically, quite poorly explained in the public arena.

For us, European livestock professionals, this point of view and the model it supports, must be debated in public fora so that all social, environmental, economic, and public health impacts are publicly known. To say that a diet free of “real meat” and a Europe without livestock are answers to the challenges posed by climate change is inaccurate and could prove catastrophic for our nutrition, our territories, our environment, diversity and our culture.

Opinion leaders who promote synthetic meat unanimously purport that the science is set when it comes to the future of livestock. They seem to think that the debate within the scientific community would unequivocally support an end to livestock breeding. This vision may be promoted by some media too, but the broader corpus of academic research clearly contradicts these allegations . The same opinion leaders often overlook the fact that livestock farmers, especially in Europe, are long-term adopters of innovation and are taking action, using technology and other solutions, to improve the sustainability of their operations and the welfare of their animals. The European livestock sector has achieved a reduction of CO2 emissions from production every year through a wide range of measures and initiatives, despite low incomes accorded to farmers. In fact European agriculture has successfully increased its overall production by 25% since 1990 while at the same time reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% over the same period .

We must consider, in terms of health, the complex nutrients naturally found in meat (vitamins, oligo-elements…) which would be hard to replicate. Let’s also consider the food security concerns that a shift to synthetic meat could generate in countries relying on our livestock and meat exports, not to mention the growing imbalance it could create between the different players of the supply chain or the impact it could have on meat protein affordability for consumers.

Furthermore, assessing all the social, environmental and economic aspects related to an abandonment of the European livestock sector is an extremely complex process, even for agricultural and animal scientists. In all scenarios, however, there are at least three definite consequences to a shift towards 100% synthetic meat:

Europe will lose a circular bio-economy champion. Livestock plays many valuable roles that would otherwise disappear. By valorising food-chain by-products, livestock contributes to a more efficient agriculture. The recycling or some say ‘upcycling’ of biomass from resources such as grass, straw and bran that are inedible for people is an important process. If not consumed by livestock, these residues and by-products could quickly become an environmental burden in themselves, as human demand for processed foods increases. The livestock sector not only produces food but also a wide range of by-products, starting with manures and other effluents. Today, 40% of the world’s cultivated areas use organic fertilisers from livestock production . A Europe without livestock will therefore lead to a significant increase in the use of synthetic fertiliser. Many other lesser-known by-products will be hard to replace without high environmental, economic and social cost – think of leather (replaced by fossil fuels-based products), pharmaceutical ingredients (replaced by synthetic ones), etc. Is this the model of society envisioned by the Green Deal?

Rural Europe will be depleted and food production will be concentrated in the hands of a few food tech companies. Today livestock is a key component of rural Europe. Livestock is present in almost all regions across Europe in a wide diversity of production systems according to local economic, geographical and sociological contexts. The livestock sector contributes substantially to the European economy (€168 billion annually, 45% of the total agricultural activity), to the trade balance and creates employment for almost 30 million people. Without livestock, the rural exodus will accelerate, putting additional population pressure on our cities, and fuelling a greater disconnection with nature and our cultural heritage. The synthetic meat revolution that is envisioned will not be an open-source system. Synthetic food will be highly engineered, ultra-processed and developed through patents. It is therefore certain that a “100% synthetic meat” society would be a society in which production would be concentrated, relocatable and disconnected from nature and rurality. If philanthropy guides the idea of a livestock-free society, then it must also share patents and technologies with everyone, especially developing countries.

The carbon footprint of our meals will not see the substantial decrease promised by synthetic replacements. From a climate change perspective, a world without livestock would likely not be the world we are aiming for. Without ruminants, the maintenance of our pastoral meadow and hedgerow landscapes would become extremely difficult in Europe. Livestock regulate the ecological cycles, close the nutrient cycle, and improve soil fertility and carbon sequestration by recycling and using manure as a bio resource and using grasslands not suitable for crops. In mixed crop and livestock areas, grasslands rotations also have the function of cutting off the cycle of crop pests, allowing farmers to reduce the use of pesticides. In addition, there has been little evaluation of the carbon footprint of synthetic meat alternatives, which may not be as good as first expected. From where would the serum to produce cultured tissues come? How much energy would be needed to make those tissues grow? What antibiotics, fungicides, or hormones would be needed to control the production?

If we truly want to make a difference in terms of the climate impact of meat protein production, then we need to invest in innovation for livestock farming. Our sector itself is keen to further innovate and committed to continuous efforts to further reduce its impact. The ability to reduce emissions and impacts within our sector dwarfs any impact an alternative meat can achieve.

To conclude, allow us to quote Jean-Louis Peyraud, French agronomist from INRAE, who said in 2017 “A world without livestock farming is just a short, medium and long-term utopia. It is time for us to come back to more realistic positions based on facts. Removing livestock farming would be absolute nonsense for humanity. But it does not mean that we do not need to improve our way of rearing animals, to respect them, to offer them a decent life and make sure that their slaughter is done without pain or stress. We have to continue to research and innovate in order to reduce the negative impacts of livestock farming and increase the services it provides to our societies.

European Livestock Voice

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About us:
European Livestock Voice ( is a multi-stakeholder group of like-minded EU partners united to bring back a balanced debate around a sector that is playing such an essential role in Europe’s rich heritage and future. The associations represent sectors ranging from animal health to feed, to breeding and animal farming and farmers; together they aim to inform the public about the social value of livestock production and its contribution to global challenges, offering another perspective in the ongoing debates.

Contact persons:
Jean-Baptiste Boucher, Copa-Cogeca +32 474 84 08 36

Opinion Piece by Johannes Charlier

An animal health scientist’s point of view on the alleged connection between food production and COVID-19

Brussels, 14 May 2020 – The crisis is a fact, the way out uncertain. We see the deadly virus as the very real and almost only truth and act accordingly. Almost every social, commercial and political act today starts from the COVID-perspective. The European Commission reprioritises its major research funding instrument Horizon 2020, the publication of the Commission’s Green Deal Farm to Fork Strategy is delayed and “should reflect the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to food security”.

In the meantime, pressure groups use the global crisis to push their own ideological agenda. Animal right movements, but also some scientists and politicians claim (industrial) livestock farming to have a direct link with an increased probability of disease outbreaks impacting on public health.

So the explicit question follows: “Is there a link between the way we rear livestock in Europe and infectious disease outbreaks in humans?”. The short answer is “no”.

This opinion piece is authored by Johannes Charlier,
Project manager of DISCONTOOLS, a database with research gaps for infectious disease control in animals and founding manager of the animal health research & consulting agency Kreavet.

RECOGNISING Food Heroes in the face of a pandemic

Brussels, 20 April 2020 – Long queues at supermarkets and food shops. Half-empty shelves. Only a few products in refrigerators. When re-stocked, the items in much demand at our supermarkets are regularly seen to be the now infamous toilet paper, followed by essential foods such as meat, milk, eggs, bread, canned goods and pasta.

Open Letter – European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy needs to take the specificities and assets of the EU livestock value chain that we represent into account

Dear Commissioners, Dear decision and policy makers,

11 March 2020 – Representing a group of 11 Brussels-based organisations, the European organisations of the livestock chain welcome the European Commission’s ambition to transform our current agri-food system through the Green Deal and more specifically the Farm to Fork strategy. As responsible actors linked to livestock farming, the whole system is willing to drive changes towards greater sustainability. The livestock sector is hotly debated when it comes to sustainable food systems, therefore our voice needs to be heard. We have both a duty and the means to contribute to the European Commission’s objectives.

>>> Read the full Open Letter

Freshly released NutriRECS consortium dietary advice updates on red and processed meats: a turning point in a longstanding controversy?

Brussels, 16 October 2019 – Although we are surrounded by an overwhelming abundance and variety of foods, the simple daily act of eating remains a problematic struggle. In a highly normative society, we are continuously being reminded of our poor eating habits. The animal/plant divide in dietary preconceptions seems to be an important part of the mindset, suggesting a cultural rather than a factual perspective on eating right. Whilst the Western diet is clearly causing havoc and undermining public health, even the dietary guidelines usually put a disproportionate emphasis on the need to reduce the consumption of red meat and the products derived thereof. This is remarkable, to say the least, as red meat is a valuable nutrient-dense food and a key component of our evolutionary diets. It has been consumed since the origin of our genus, sometimes in formidable amounts. By 1.5 million years ago, we became largely adapted to meat eating, both anatomically and physiologically, and could not have survived without it.

The received wisdom nonetheless states that we eat ‘too much red meat’ per capita and that we are indulging in it as never before. This may be true when compared to the rural and often underfed generations that spanned the time between the Neolithic and modernity, but many healthy hunter gatherer communities worldwide have done so in even larger quantities. One can only guess how much red meat was eaten during the Palaeolithic era, but it certainly was higher than the mere 0-14 grams per day that is now being recommended by the very restrictive Planetary Health Diet. The latter has been designed by the EAT-Lancet Commission and is symptomatic for the current existential crisis within the scientific discipline of nutritional epidemiology of chronic diseases. Stanford University’s professor John Ioannidis, for instance, has dismissed the health claims of the diet as ‘science fiction’. Nevertheless, fourteen cities belonging to the so-called C40 Cities network, including London, Paris, Barcelona, and Milano, have declared that they will commit to adopting the EAT-Lancet Diet by 2030 to make their diets healthy and sustainable. Even if it is mostly presented as a dietary solution to limit environmental harm, EAT’s science director has admitted that its design has been based on health considerations only. Which brings us to the primordial issue: how strong is the evidence for such a drastic change in dietary behaviour based on nutritional argumentation?

Although the levels of red meat intake have been steadily decreasing over the last decades in many Western countries, possibly as a result of dietary advice, no improvement can be seen with respect to the incidence of diseases of modernity. Well on the contrary, as diabetes and obesity are on the rise. The dietary recommendations have thus failed in their mission, whether or not they are correct in their assumptions. We can either blame this failure on the behavioural weaknesses of the general public or start asking some fundamental questions about the very nature of this approach. As a matter of fact, the dietary guidelines have faced serious criticism since their inception during the late 1970s. Although they were able to ignore the pushback for decades, they did not overcome the inner tension this has created. Today, a decade-old problem is reaching its boiling point.

Authorities that advocate a reduction of the intake of red and processed meats generally claim that this is an evidence-based measure that is unambiguously supported by scientific literature. A closer look at the data, however, demonstrates that most of this literature consists of observational studies, which show weak associations between consumption levels on the one hand and incidence of mortality and certain chronic diseases on the other hand. The consumption data feeding these studies are, however, far from being robust. They are generally selfreported and derived from food frequency questionnaires that have difficulties capturing actual eating behaviour. Moreover, the reported associations are not only weak but also heavily confounded. A main problem is the ‘healthy user bias’, which is due to the fact that health-conscious people are usually eating less meat because they tend to follow the dietary advice encouraging them to do so. Or, in some cases, report as if they would be following that advice. However, such people also tend to be less overweight, more physically active, smoke less, consume less alcohol, have better medical guidance, and just lead healthier lives in general.

Enter the old adagio: association is not necessarily equal to causation; it should not be treated as such until sufficient proof has been accumulated. One would assume that this would by now have been installed as a widespread principle of good scientific practice. What observational studies are capturing is to be considered as health ‘beliefs’ within a society, rather than specific health ‘effects’ of actual foods. In a non-Westernized context, for instance, positive associations sometimes turn into negative ones. This is also confirmed when looking worldwide: the global PURE studies found that the consumption of meat parallels lower mortality and less heart disease. And when arguing nonetheless for a causal detrimental relationship, researchers should not ignore the fact that the administration of red meat in randomized controlled trials does not lead to worsened risk marker profile for inflammation, oxidative stress, or cardiovascular performed a rigorous quality check of the evidence, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. They clearly state that, when using the highest scientific standards, the certainty of evidence arguing for meat reduction is low to very low. They therefore recommend that adults continue current consumption, at least as far as health effects are concerned. Such authoritative intervention within the peer-reviewed scientific literature was urgently needed. Time will tell if it is able to move the needle, so that we can finally start focussing on what is truly needed: adequate essential nutrition within planetary boundaries.disease.

Taken together, the conflicting ‘body of evidence’ has generated a lot of confusion. To set the record straight, the NutriRECS consortium has recently

This opinion piece is authored by Prof. Dr. ir. Frederic LEROY,
Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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Opinion Piece by Ramón Armengol

Farmers are fed up with false facts

Brussels, 10 October 2019 – Recently, we kicked off the European Meatthefacts campaign, which aims to dispel false information or myths about animal husbandry and meat. The aim is to refute, with scientific arguments and objective data, the countless accusations experienced by the livestock sector and to be able to show society the potential consequences for society if livestock production would end.

This opinion piece is authored by Ramón Armengol,
Vice President of Cogeca and Pig farmer (ES)


Opinon piece by European Livestock Voice

‘Climate Change’ and ‘Animal Welfare’ cannot be reduced to simple slogans

25 September 2019 – There has never been a shortage of polarisation in the debate over farm animals, but when the livestock production debate was connected to climate change the polarisation turned into stigmatisation.
All of a sudden a strong discourse arose directing people to feel guilty, not only for producing meat, but even for eating it, and of course demands like ‘sin taxes’ on animal products were quick to follow.

This self-penned opinion piece published on gives some insight into why this wide range of sectoral associations have joined together as one European Livestock Voice to speak out against disinformation on livestock at EU level.