Thirty-four MEPs are accusing the European Commission of double standards for pouring €3.6 million into a campaign to promote beef consumption while simultaneously proposing Green Deal goals to reduce emissions and promote more plant-based diets.
The criticism comes in response to a €4.5 million initiative called “Proud of EU beef,” which supports two beef lobby groups: Provacuno in Spain and APAQ-W in Belgium. The EU is funding the bulk of this initiative, with roughly €2.4 million going to the Spanish group, which has used the funding for a “Become a Beefatarian” campaign that suggests beef-eating can contribute toward sustainable development. Another €1.2 million was allotted to the Belgian group.
The MEPs argue this campaign contradicts the recommendations of various environmental studies on combatting climate change and also undermines the EU’s Farm to Fork sustainable food strategy under the Green Deal. The strategy, launched in May, states that “moving to a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat and with more fruits and vegetables will reduce not only risks of life‑threatening diseases, but also the environmental impact of the food system.”
“It seems to us … that the Commission is setting ambitious sustainability goals, but then is fearful of letting down the meat (and dairy) industry when it comes to real action, meaning that harmful subsidies or support measures … continue,” the MEPs wrote in a letter seen by POLITICO and dated December 9.
The cross-party parliamentary group — which includes MEPs from the Greens, the Socialists & Democrats, the leftist GUE/NGL and independents — says they are “concerned about the falsifying effect that this campaign might have on citizens’ perception of the impact their diets can have on climate change.”
“It undermines [the Commission’s] own goals when they say one thing and do another,” said one of the signatories, Anja Hazekamp, the vice chair of Parliament’s environment committee, from the GUE/NGL group. “It’s like promoting cigarettes when people are trying to quit smoking.”
She added: “Hypocrisy and double standards are perfectly good words for this.”
The Proud of EU Beef website says the campaign’s aim is to “incite the consumers not to have a stereotyped idea about red meat and to enable them to be again confident about their consumption decision.” It adds that “fresh meat consumption has faced constat decrease [sic]” over the past decade in Europe and singles out five key markets to target: Spain, France, Portugal, Germany and Belgium.
Asked by POLITICO on Wednesday how the “beefatarian” push was consistent with the Farm to Fork strategy, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski replied that “there is no Commission idea to stop meat consumption or to reduce meat consumption and to order consumers’ behavior or their diets.”
“My responsibility as commissioner for agriculture is to support more sustainable production of food, also including meat production,” he continued, stressing the role that shorter supply chains could play in achieving this.
Wojciechowski was speaking at a press conference for the launch of an EU outlook report, which predicts a decline in meat consumption from its current level of 68.7 kilograms in retail weight per capita to 67.6 kg by 2030, owing to “sustainability concerns.”
Beef consumption, in particular, will “continue to decrease,” the report says, adding that “this could lead to a smaller EU livestock herd, particularly of bovines and pigs.”
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