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

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

20/05/21

JOINT DECLARATION

Without a comprehensive impact assessment, we will not be celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Farm to Fork strategy.

Today marks one year to the day since the Farm to Fork strategy was presented in Brussels by the European Commission. However, we cannot celebrate its anniversary, as the strategy still raises too many questions in the European farming and agri-food community. A year of intense debate has only increased the number of our concerns.

We, the signatories of this declaration, do not have a single doubt that the Farm to Fork strategy with its targets will have a considerable impact on the whole agricultural value chain, from farmers to our food systems and to consumers throughout the Union. But most probably not on the ones initially hoped for or expected.

Let’s be perfectly clear, we are not opposed in essence to the approach proposed within the Farm to Fork strategy or the Green Deal. We are all conscious that our food system must integrate further measures to improve its sustainability as fast as possible while maintaining the highest quality standards and food affordability.

Nevertheless, not only will this strategy have an impact on the environmental quality of our agriculture, but it will also impact on our production capacity, our competitiveness, our imports and ultimately on consumer prices. As it has been demonstrated over the past year, there are also considerable paradoxes in the composition of those generalised objectives, and by the time these are widely understood, it will be too late. We must not shy away from the debate on these paradoxes. We must collectively discuss them because, even if there appears to be a collective disregard at EU-level these days, the stakes are too high.

A comprehensive impact assessment would have been the appropriate way to engage in a concrete discussion on the substance of the Farm to Fork strategy. Such a study was promised by Vice-President Frans Timmermans. However, although this was promised on many occasions in line with the principles of “good governance” of the Commission, we now know that such as assessment will not be carried out. Yet the Commission’s principles on the subject are clear, “An impact assessment is required for Commission initiatives that are likely to have significant economic, environmental or social impacts.(1) (…) Impact assessments collect evidence to assess if future legislative or non-legislative EU action is justified and how such action can best be designed to achieve desired policy objectives (2).” In the face of the challenges posed to our food security, this neglect on the part of the Commission is both incomprehensible and unacceptable.

Individual studies on the different objectives of the strategy are not sufficient. It is only by cumulating and cross-checking the different targets proposed in the strategy that one can realise the real challenges posed by the strategy. In the area of trade policy, the same Commission has had the courage to propose a comprehensive study of the complex cumulative impacts involved in the more than 60 trade agreements signed by the EU. So why shouldn’t this be possible for the Farm to Fork strategy? Why has the US government already conducted a study on our own flagship policy ?(3)

We are asking for the application of three common sense principles: to have a policy based on concrete data and scientific evidence that is in line with the better regulation principles, not on ideology and political stances; to start talking about concrete tools and technologies capable of creating enthusiasm in our farming community for this political project and finally to have the same level of ambition in the EU internal market vis-à-vis those international trade partners that don’t share the same ambitions.

  1. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/better-regulation-guidelines-impact-assessment.pdf
  2. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/better-regulation-guidelines-better-regulation-commission.pdf
  3. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/99741/eb-30.pdf?v=4992.2

-END-

AnimalHealthEurope – European Animal Medicines Industry
Agriculture and Progress – European Platform for Sustainable Agricultural Production
AVEC – European Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade
Ceettar – European Organisation of Agricultural, Rural and Forestry Contractors
CEFS – European Association of Sugar Manufacturers
CEJA – European Council of Young Farmers
CEMA – European Agricultural Machinery Industry
CEPM – European Confederation of Maize Production
CEVI – European Confederation of Independent Winegrowers
CIBE – International Confederation of European Beet Growers
Clitravi – Liaison Centre for the Meat Processing Industry in the European Union
COCERAL – European association of trade in cereals, oilseeds, pulses, olive oil, oils and fats, animal feed and agrosupply
Copa-Cogeca – European Farmers and Agri-Cooperatives
Cotance – European Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers
EDA – European Dairy Association
EFFAB – European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders
ELO – European Landowners’ Organization
ePURE – European Renewable Ethanol Industry
Euromontana – European Association of Mountain Areas
European Livestock Voice – European Platform of the Livestock Food Chain (with the support of its local partners CARNI SOSTENIBILI (IT) and SOMOS GANADERIA (ES)).
Euroseeds – European seed sector Association
FARM EUROPE – European Think Tank on Rural Economies
FEAP – Federation of European Aquaculture Producers
FEFAC – European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation
FEFANA – European Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures
Fertilizers Europe – European Fertilizer Industry Association
Euro Foie Gras – European Federation of foie gras
IBC – International Butchers’ Confederation
UECBV – European Livestock and Meat Trades Union

For further information, please contact:
François Guerin
Senior Policy Advisor
Francois.Guerin@copa-cogeca.eu


Jean-Baptiste Boucher
Communications Director
Mobile: + 32 474 840 836
jean-baptiste.boucher@copa-cogeca.eu

The Joint Declaration can be found here in DE, EN, ES, FR, IT, PL and RO.

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 (www.meatthefacts.eu) 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 jean-baptiste.boucher@copa-cogeca.eu +32 474 84 08 36
Clare Carlisle, AnimalHealthEurope c.carlisle@animalhealtheurope.eu +32 474 38 87 11
Florence Ranson, ELV florence@red-comms.eu + 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 (www.meatthefacts.eu) 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 c.carlisle@animalhealtheurope.eu +32 474 38 87 11
Jean-Baptiste Boucher, Copa-Cogeca jean-baptiste.boucher@copa-cogeca.eu +32 474 84 08 36
Florence Ranson, ELV florence@red-comms.eu + 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

Download PDF Copy

The Opinion Piece can be found here in DE, EN, ES, FR, IT, PL, RO

About us:
European Livestock Voice (www.meatthefacts.eu) 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 c.carlisle@animalhealtheurope.eu +32 474 38 87 11
Jean-Baptiste Boucher, Copa-Cogeca jean-baptiste.boucher@copa-cogeca.eu +32 474 84 08 36
Florence Ranson, ELV florence@red-comms.eu + 32 477 49 26 90

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

>>> Read the full opinion piece

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 Euractiv.com 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.