BRUSSELS—Last night the European Parliament adopted the “Farm to Fork Strategy” report during its Plenary session in Strasbourg. While the report could have been considerably stronger, it still made some valuable and progressive demands for advancing animal welfare, as well as addressing crucial environmental issues, such as tackling the density of EU farm animal populations and greenhouse gas emissions relating to imported animal feed and food. HSI/Europe warmly welcomes the Parliament’s backing for the revision of the existing EU animal welfare legislation and method of production labelling for animal products.
Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe said:
“Crucially, MEPs explicitly reiterated their support for an end for caged confinement of farm animals by 2027. When the Commission delivers its legislative proposals in 2023, we’ll certainly be reminding them that backing out on this is not what the 1.4 million EU citizens who signed the End the Cage Age European Citizens Initiative will accept.”
With regard to industrial animal production systems, the “Farm to Fork” report underlines that caged confinement increases animals’ susceptibility to infectious diseases and creates the conditions for the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. Leaked documents suggest that this was an inconvenient truth for the EU farm lobby, which had done their utmost to try to eliminate such language from the report.
HSI/Europe recognises that the Parliament’s “Farm to Fork” report is largely the outcome of negotiations and compromises between political groups with diametrically opposed positions on many of the issues covered by it and expressed its overall satisfaction with the outcome of the vote.
“Amongst other things, the adopted report acknowledges that our current food system, including animal and crop production, must be brought within planetary boundaries. It calls for an accelerated transformation away from intensive animal agricultural practices and emphasises that a population-wide shift in consumption patterns is needed to increase the consumption of plant-based foods and address the overconsumption of meat and ultra-processed products,” added Dr Swabe.
The current European food production system, which heavily features meat and dairy products, is largely unsustainable and is inextricably linked to climate change, biodiversity decline, environmental degradation and public health crises. In recognition of this, the European Commission last year delivered its ambitious “A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system.” The report on the strategy was adopted by the Committees on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and on Agriculture and Rural Development last month. After the plenary vote from yesterday, the ball is now back in the court of the European Commission and Member States to ensure that the Parliament’s recommendations are translated into concrete policy action.
Key animal protection and climate change language from the adopted report includes:
- Calls for the Commission to deliver a legislative proposal to phase out the use of cages in EU animal farming, possibly by 2027. This reiterates the Parliament’s position expressed in its Resolution of 10th June 2021 on the European Citizens Initiative to End the Cage Age.
- A demand for the Commission and Member States to implement and enforce relevant EU legislation, including the slaughter and animal transport legislation, underscoring the importance of starting infringement procedures against systemically non-compliant Member States and the need to close legislative gaps setting higher standards in legislation for animal welfare.
- Stresses that it is essential for the EU to take into account third country compliance with animal welfare standards, particularly concerning imported products.
- Underlines that our current animal production systems, which frequently involve the confinement of animals of a similar genotype in close proximity to one another, can increase their susceptibility to infectious disease, creating conditions for the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases and calls for an accelerated transition away from these agricultural practices.
- Recognises that the food system, including animal and crop production, must be brought within planetary boundaries, ensuring ambitious reductions in all greenhouse gas emissions by addressing livestock densities in the EU and embedded land use emissions from imported feed and food.
- Stresses that agriculture and farming practices with significant negative impacts on climate, biodiversity, soil, water, air and on animal welfare should not receive EU climate funding, nor be incentivised or rewarded.
- Underlines the need for method of production labelling on animal products (including processed ones) to be established, including animal welfare indicators, the place of birth, rearing and slaughter of the animal, to increase transparency and help consumer choice.
- Highlights that a population-wide shift in consumption patterns is needed towards more healthy foods, diets and lifestyles, including increased consumption of sustainably and regionally produced plants and more plant-based foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and to address the overconsumption of meat and ultra-processed products, which will also benefit the environment and animal welfare.
- Considers that the further development and sustainable innovation in the field of plant protein production and alternative sources of protein in the EU is a way of effectively addressing many of the environmental and climate challenges, as well as preventing deforestation, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation in countries outside the EU.
- Stresses that production and market uptake of plant-based proteins should be better supported and calls for the Commission to deliver a proposal for harmonised requirements with regard to the labelling for vegetarian and fully plant-based foods.
- Supports giving Member States more flexibility to differentiate in the VAT rates on food with different health and environmental impacts, enabling a zero VAT tax for fruits and vegetables, and a higher VAT rate on unhealthy food and food with a high environmental footprint.