Spain’s beef consumption scandal is just one example of the ongoing debate in Europe as it struggles to make its famous cuisines sustainable.
For countries in continental Europe, food is integrally linked to national identity. A good steak with perfect seasoning is one example. frites Stack it next to it; a wafer thin plate carpaccioServed with good mustard and drizzled with dressing. jamn ibricoCreme de crème blanche fat.
Europeans love meat and eat a lot. The average person consumes 1.5kg of meat per week. Average citizen of the EU27It is more than twice the global average.
It is also evident that if global warming is to be reduced, then the consumption level must drop quickly. Greenpeace estimatesIt will need to fall by 70% by the end the decade and to 300g by 2050. Because not all the meat left slaughterhouses is sold or consumed, this means that each European can eat about two good-sized hamburgers per week.
This news received a surprisingly negative response. To put it mildly, the response was unenthusiastic. It’s almost impossible, politically, to balance the priorities for environmental action against the clout often powerful farming lobby and the expectations from large populations used to eating high quantities of cheap meat.
Spain, for example has the dubious honor of having the highest per capita meat supply within the bloc. This is why Alberto Garzn, the minister of consumer affairs, was caught up in a national row last summer after he asked his compatriots not to eat as much meat for the sake both of the environment, and for their own health. He said that our health and the health of families are at risk. Too much meat is bad news for our health and the planet.
Within hours, he was taken down by Pedro Snchez (the prime minister), and not just the agriculture minister. Snchez was asked his opinion on Garzns plea. He replied that a medium-rare steak is difficult to beat.
There is evidence that many Europeans take the issue seriously. One recent example: Survey revealedNearly half (46%) European consumers eat less meat now than they did in the past, while 40% plan to reduce their meat consumption.
The EU-backed study of more than 7,500 people from 10 European countries found that a third of them actively sought to reduce their meat consumption. 73% of those surveyed said they had significantly reduced their meat intake in the past month.
But in its latest documentAccording to the European Commission, despite increasing public awareness of the importance and sustainability of meat, EU meat consumption per person is unlikely to drop by more than 3kg per annum.
It will be crucial for government intervention to occur, but it will be, as Spain has shown, difficult. Garzn told the Guardian that people needed to reduce their meat consumption in December. He also contrasted meat from traditional, extensive farming with meat from intensive megafarms. However, parts of Garzns interview have been seized by the conservative Peoples party as well as the far-right Vox party who demanded that he resign due to what they call an unforgivable attack against Spain’s important meat industry, and its quality exports.
The consumer affairs minister stuck to his words and accused the lobby of big companies that promote polluting megafarms, of deliberately distorting what they said. His comments do not contradict official government policy. The ministry for ecological transformation wants more intensive production systems and better-adapted native breeds to be used. Agriculture minister has praised small family farms and some regional governments have taken steps to limit intensive agriculture.
Germany has been one of the EU’s largest producers of animal-based products per head for many decades. But, the politics here are very sensitive.
The Green party, which is part of the new coalition with the centre left SPD and the liberal FDP has been slow to accelerate the falling trend.
Painful political experiences can lead to hesitancy. Germany’s Greens have been seen as a threat to democracy in recent years. Verbotspartei, They want to ban the joys and blessings of life. The tabloid Bild complained that the Greens wanted to take away our meat during a 2013 veggie day initiative at state-subsidised canteens.
Instead, the environmental party took advantage of its first weeks in power and launched a less controversial campaign against junk food sold at high prices. Cem zdemir, the new agriculture minister, stated that Bild Germans were losing because food quality was too low and food prices were too high.
Junk prices, which are often imposed by all-powerful supermarket chain chains, often drive farms to ruin, prevent animals welfare, promote species extinction, and burden the climate. I want to change this. He said that the price of food should reflect the ecological truth. Consumers must accept paying a fair price for higher quality food.
This approach is not universally accepted. The Parittische Gesamtverband, a group representing Germany’s social welfare organizations, criticised the new governments attack against cheap meat. It argued that higher food prices should be accompanied with compensation payments for people on low incomes.
In Italy, Roberto Cingolani (environment minister) sparked a heated debate last year when he stated that excessive meat consumption was detrimental to health and the environment. He also suggested that encouraging Italians not to eat as much meat would be central part of his plans.
Changes in our diet will improve public health, decrease water consumption, and produce less CO2.2Cingolani agreed. Instantly, farmers retorted, stating that the annual meat consumption per capita in Italy was among the lowest in Europe and that meat was an important part in a balanced diet.
Luca Mercalli is a well-known activist who continues to keep the debate alive. He argues that better quality meat, produced closer to home and consumed in lower quantities, would make a significant contribution to the environment.
Mercalli stated that a large number of Italians are sensitive about the topic and have altered their diets either because of concerns about the climate or dietary reasons. In Italy, the problem is that the debate can become toxic. Vegetarians are often harsh about meat-eaters, which in turn alienates 90%.
He said that the government should provide more information. The message should be that you should eat less meat but that you should buy local meat that is more sustainable. Even if you do have to pay more, eating high-quality meat once a week is better than eating cheap hamburgers every day.
French meat consumption has also been falling steadilyWith surveys suggestingHalf of the population has cut their meat intake over the last three years, and 30% want to continue this trend over the next three. Yet, Frances’s launch was met with outrage. National low-carbon strategyThe 2020 Climate Change Action Plan was adopted. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, which currently account for 20% of the country’s total. Livestock farming will generate 80% by 2030, and 46% by 2050.
EU countries that attempted to implement meat reduction policies immediately faced backlash. After trade unions and industry protested, the Danish government was forced to reverse a ban on state canteens serving meat two days a week. The government now focuses on non-meat food production. Climate agreementIt boasts the EU’s largest investment for plant-based research and technology development. It also includes an annual fund to help support the transition to a national dietary change. Christianne van den Wal-Zeggelink, the minister for nature and nitrogen affairs in the Netherlands, has been appointed to help prioritise the treatment of the major environmental problems that have been caused by intensive pig farming.
This is also true for the European Commission, which has to contend with the incompatibility between ambitious carbon emission reduction plans as well as the large-scale subsidies of the common agricultural policy. Account for almost a thirdof the EUs budget. Greenpeace Broken down the numbersAccording to the report, a fifth of all EU budgets are spent on livestock.
Even in 2020, the EU was still spending money on meat eating promotion with a controversial and somewhat insane ad campaign Exhorting people to be Beefatarians. If the sound and smell of beef sizzling in the grill brings out your emotions, you’re a true Beefatarian. Confused? It’s only going to get worse.