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Scientists including Dr Jane Goodall call for EU to promote healthier diets, not animal products

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News Section Icon Published 24/06/2021

An international group of over 60 scientists today called on the European Commission to shift its funding for food advertisements away from animal products and towards healthier and more sustainable plant-based diets.

Among the scientists is the world-renowned ethologist and conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, UN Messenger of Peace and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute.

In a letter to the Commission, the scientists note that recent Commission policy documents such as the Farm to Fork strategy for a healthier and more environmentally sustainable food system and the Beating Cancer plan recognise the need for a shift to more plant-rich diets.

Yet perversely, they point out, in recent years the Commission has spent nearly one third of its 200 million euro annual budget for promoting agricultural produce on advertising animal products — in some cases funding up to 80% of marketing campaign costs.

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Notorious 'Beefetarian' campaign, co-funded by the EU

'This policy needs reform'

Some of these campaigns have explicitly aimed at reversing a decline or maintaining growth in meat consumption. “This policy needs reform so that it supports public health, environmental protection and animal welfare instead of putting them at risk,” the letter says.

Dr Goodall, who is a patron of Compassion in World Farming and a vocal supporter of plant-rich food systems, comments: “The European Commission’s recent food and cancer policies show it well understands the need for a shift away from animal products towards more plant-rich diets, but its policy for funding food ads doesn’t yet reflect this. It seems important that these conflicting messages be brought into line. We are calling on the Commission to reform its EU farm products promotion policy so that it provides support and incentives for the crucial shift to more plant-based diets in Europe. This will benefit people, animals and the planet.”

Social Media Visual With Jane Goodall Quote Food Promotion Letter

Heavy health & environmental aspects

In the letter, the scientists point out that the high levels of consumption of red and processed meat made possible by industrial production are contributing to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans and red meat as probably carcinogenic.

They add that ‘a tsunami’ of over-production and over-consumption of animal products in the EU is overwhelming nature. Almost 70% of EU greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from animal farming and much of the soy the EU imports for animal feed is from deforested land. The intensification of EU crop production to grow the concentrate feed demanded by industrial animal production is causing soil degradation, overuse and pollution of water, as well as air pollution.

The text of the letter and the full list of signatories is available here.

The EU is now in the process of revising its advertising scheme for European agricultural products. Compassion in World Farming EU has also called on the Commission to end its marketing campaigns for animal products.

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Artist: Kate Taylor

Taxpayers funding animal suffering

The EU rears and slaughters 9 billion terrestrial animals each year (our estimates based on FAO data). Insufficient legal protection of their welfare condemns billions of these sentient beings to short and brutal lives on factory farms and to suffering at slaughter. 

In addition, over half a billion fish spend a life of misery in underwater factory farms in the EU. Cruel methods of capture and slaughter are commonly used for farmed and wild fish.

To protect our health and that of the planet, scientists on the EAT-Lancet Commission have recommended that Europeans reduce their consumption of red meat and poultry by two thirds.

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