MEPs underline support for moving away from industrial animal farming, increase in plant-based protein and tax on climate-damaging foods

Despite farming lobby resistance, the Farm to Fork report makes valuable policy demands to advance animal welfare and tackling climate change, says HSl/Europe

Humane Society International / Europe


Brussels—MEPs have backed the revision of EU animal welfare legislation, an accelerated transition away from intensive animal agriculture, greater support for plant-based proteins and zero tax for climate-friendly foods with higher tax on climate-damaging foods like meat. The European Parliament’s Committees on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and on Agriculture and Rural Development adopted their report on the European Commission’s Communication on A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system, which was a vital component of the EU’s flagship European Green Deal policy.

MEPs reiterated their support for an end to caged confinement of animals by 2027 and acknowledged that intensive animal agriculture practices increase animals’ susceptibility to infectious disease.

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs at Humane Society International/Europe, issued the following statement after the joint Committee vote:

“For the sake of the environment, biodiversity, animal welfare and human health, it is imperative that the EU takes action to transition to a more sustainable food system. We cannot continue with ‘business as usual’ propping up the current (over)production and consumption of meat and other animal products which is inextricably linked to climate change, animal suffering and public health crises. Despite thousands of animal ag-driven amendments attempting to thwart progress and cling to the status quo, a sufficient numbers of MEPs paid more attention to the scientific realities of the climate and biodiversity crisis. Although far from ground-breaking, and a clear product of political compromise, the report still makes some valuable and progressive policy demands for achieving a more sustainable and animal-friendly food system, and HSI/Europe urges MEPs not to further weaken or dilute the Farm to Fork report at Plenary.”

Key animal protection and climate change language adopted by the ENVI and AGRI committees include:

  • 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 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 vegan 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.

The European Commission adopted its Communication A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system on 20th May 2020. This included inter alia a commitment to evaluating and revising the existing body of animal welfare legislation and recognised that moving to a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat will reduce not only risks of life-threatening diseases, but also the environmental impact of the food system. Regrettably the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety ceded to the strongly industry-driven Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development’s demands for joint competence for this file, leading to the appointment of two rapporteurs with diametrically opposed positions on many issues: Anja Hazekamp MEP (The Left/Party for the Animals, NL) for ENVI and Herbert Dorfmann MEP for AGRI (EPP/Südtiroler Volkspartei, IT). More than 2,000 amendments were tabled to this report. Lengthy political negotiations led the original 2,295 amendments to be condensed down to 48 compromise amendments.

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Stefanie McNerney/HSI

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