Today, 3 February 2021, the EU Commission published a new plan to fight cancer, which includes a commitment to encourage a "shift to a more plant-based diet, with less red and processed meat and other foods linked to cancer risk and more fruit and vegetables." An earlier leaked version was somewhat more ambitious, indicating a potential phase out of the promotion of red and processed meat. Nonetheless, this is a very good step in the right direction and will hopefully help prevent the disease. To build on this, the EU now needs to take a more holistic approach and step up the promotion of plant-rich diets in upcoming laws and policies.
Between 2016 and 2019, the EU allocated EUR 138.7 million to campaigns promoting meat and meat products. This scheme became notorious with the controversial “Beefetarian” campaign, which aims to promote the consumption of beef and suggests that beef-eating can contribute toward sustainable development, contrary to scientific evidence and political consensus. Fortunately, the EU Commission is finally changing course.
“While last year the Commission watered down ambitious wording regarding meat reduction in the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy, it is now taking a more confident step in the right direction, although it is not fully there yet," said Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU. "We applaud Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and those working on this important work for the health of EU citizens. In this path, the EU can do better by taking a more holistic approach to improving our diets, besides tackling tobacco and alcohol use. This can be done, for example, by overhauling the marketing and advertising rules. If the EU is to truly deliver on its commitments to improve our health, the lives of animals and save our one and only planet, then targets for reduction in the consumption of ALL animal products – not just red and processed meat – are necessary, accompanied by targets for an increase in consumption of plant-based foods.”
Also in the news today, Chatham House, supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Compassion in World Farming, are launching a new report which reviews the impacts of our global food system on biodiversity and provides important recommendations that the EU can use in reforming its food policy systems.