On 26 January 2021, the research and campaign group “Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)”, which monitors corporate lobbying at EU level, leaked amendments for the report on the ‘Farm-to-Fork’ (F2F) Strategy suggested by Copa-Cogeca.
Copa-Cogeca is the umbrella organisation for Europe’s farmers’ and agri-cooperatives’ associations. As such they have had a heavy influence on Europe’s farming policies for many years, including the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which is responsible for today’s misguided system of mainly subsidising farmland, irrespective of the agricultural practices used on that land. As EVU has pointed out in its position paper “Three Pillars for a Sustainable European Food System”, this also results in 70% of the EU’s current farmland being used to feed livestock.
CEO had already published a report on the influence of Copa-Cogeca in the Brussels bubble in October 2020. They reported on various attempts of the farmers’ lobby to undermine the F2F Strategy in its development phase, calling for postponements and delays.
F2F was still published last year and EVU criticised apparent last-minute changes that had been made to earlier draft versions.
The legislative process kicked off with the draft report from the two leading committees within the European Parliament that are responsible for F2F. The rapporteurs, MEPs Anja Hazekamp from the environment committee and Herbert Dorfmann from the agriculture committee, published their draft report at the end of 2020.
The recently leaked amendments that Copa-Cogeca proposes for the draft report, show concerning positions of the farmers’ lobby towards a transition of Europe’s food system:
They suggest to delete the report statement “Emphasises the importance of recognising the significant impact of agriculture and especially animal production on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and land use; stresses the need to enhance natural carbon sinks and reduce agricultural emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, in particular in the feed and livestock sectors […]” altogether. They instead suggest to replace it with an explanation that emissions from agriculture are a result of “natural processes” “that cannot be avoided” and a statement about agriculture being the only sector worldwide that reduced GHG emissions. Statements like these show that the agri-industry has no intention of moving away from intensive animal agriculture and acknowledging the impact it has on climate, environment, biodiversity, land, and water. The majority of food-related emissions are caused by the livestock sector, which emits 8.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalents yearly and accounts for around 16% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are not merely the product of “natural processes”, but of a system that rewards striving for ever more and ignoring unsustainable practices. It is scientifically well-established that livestock numbers and animal product consumption must be significantly reduced in order for the EU food system to become more sustainable.
Furthermore, Copa-Cogeca does not seem to be of the opinion that healthy and sustainable diets are mainly plant-based. They suggest to delete the following statements from the report: “[…] a population-wide shift in consumption patterns is needed towards more healthy and plant-based foods and less red and processed meat, sugars, salt, and fats, which will also benefit the environment” as well as “calls on the Commission to develop […] specific actions to effectively promote healthy plant-based diets”. This shows a complete disregard for scientific dietary recommendations as well as the current problematic dietary patterns among average Europeans.
This CEO leak shows yet again that there are powerful groups in the EU, trying to undermine efforts to move the continent in a more sustainable direction and to keep a status quo that is aimed at economic benefits without consideration for the external costs transferred to society. The food system and its various interest groups are no exception and politicians must stick to scientific evidence and pave the way for real alternatives and change.
The report on the leak can be found here.
On 23 October 2020, consumers interested in plant-based foods, plant-based food producers and retailers were able to breathe a sigh of relief as the European Parliament voted down the ‘Veggie Burger Ban’.
On this day the Parliament voted on the Agriculture Committee’s proposals for a reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). Among those proposals was an amendment that sought to ban the use of sales designations such as ‘burger’ or ‘sausage’ for plant-based food products.
Fortunately, it was voted down by the majority of the plenary.
“We are glad that most MEPs apparently also found these amendments to be unnecessary and unhelpful.” says Ronja Berthold, Head of Public Affairs of EVU.
“As 50% of European consumers are actively reducing their meat consumption and in times of the ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’ and the ‘Green Deal’, which call on the promotion of plant-based diets and foods and making sustainable choices easier for consumers, few people could understand why the Parliament would suggest to thwart the plant-based food sector with such legislation.”, she added. In fact, a petition against the ban had almost reached 300.000 signatures.
Nevertheless, the ‘Veggie Burger Ban’ was not the only problematic amendment regarding the labelling of plant-based food. Unfortunately, MEPs adopted an amendment that further restricts the marketing of plant-based dairy alternatives.
While terms such as ‘milk’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’ are already reserved for products that contain “mammary secretion” according to Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013, the amendment leads to a further limitation of the use of such terms, as all references in commercial communications will now be prohibited. This includes descriptions such as ‘alternative to cheese’ or ‘yoghurt style’.
“How will consumers interested in plant-based dairy alternatives be able to distinguish between a yoghurt, pudding or curd alternative for example, if these terms are not allowed to describe the nature of a dairy alternative?” asks Ronja Berthold. “This extension of the dairy denomination law is clearly undermining consumer protection and transparency.” she added.
Now that the whole CAP reform was adopted, the package enters the trilogue negotiations with Council and Commission. Therefore not all hope is lost for plant-based dairy alternatives. 43% of European consumers are already consuming plant-based milk alternatives and this trend will continue, no matter the obstacles that are put in the way of dairy alternatives.
On 19-22 October, the plenary of the European Parliament will vote on two amendments within the framework of the Common Agriculture Policy reform, amendments 165 and 171, that would significantly affect the labelling of plant-based foods. Stakeholders are preparing for a last attempt to avert the ‘Veggie Burger Ban’ at EU-Parliament level.
Previously, negotiations in the agriculture committee, where the proposals were first discussed, were unsuccessful as committee members were not able to reach an agreement.
The adoption of the original amendment 165 would ban the use of “meaty” names such as “steak” or “burger” for describing vegetarian or vegan alternatives to meat products. Another ‘compromise’ proposal to 165 would still restrict the naming practice and pass the ball to the European Commission to clarify the issue.
Amendment 171 is concerned with dairy-related terms. While terms such as “milk”, “cheese” or “yoghurt” are already reserved for products that contain dairy milk according to Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013, the amendment would lead to a further limitation of the use of such terms as all references in commercial communications would be prohibited. This includes descriptions such as ‘alternative to cheese’ or ‘yoghurt style’.
It has always been EVU’s position that these terms convey important information about the form, function and flavour of the products, which can support consumers in making informed choices, provided that the plant-based nature of the product is clearly communicated. Furthermore, amendments 165 and 171 conflict with objectives of the ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy of the European Commission, which states the need to empower consumers “to choose sustainable food” and to make “it easier to choose healthy and sustainable diets”.
Some civil society organisations, science representatives, retail as well as companies joined forces under the umbrella of the European Alliance for Plant-Based Foods (EAPF). The alliance wrote an open letter to MEPs, asking to reject the amendments and gathered more signatories, such as multinational players Nestlé and Unilever.
In order to prevent the adoption of the amendments, ProVeg’s burger ban petition was also re-launched, gaining over 100,000 signatures and the topic has already received some media attention. Media outlets discuss the joint efforts and even the Dutch satirical show “Zondag met Lubach” picked up the topic.
As the proponents of the bans are launching their own campaigns, EVU and the other plant-based stakeholders continue their lobbying efforts. Now it is up to MEPs to decide which arguments they find most convincing and how they will vote.
Plant-based food sales figures have constantly been growing over the past years, but the market has seen a sudden steep increase in the first half of 2020.
In Germany, vegan food sales have increased by 37% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 2019. Not only have foods such as dairy-free spreads, tofu products, and vegan meat gained popularity, 1 in every 10 products newly released in Germany is now vegan.
The UK has noted a similar rise in the popularity of vegan and vegetarian products. The major supermarket chain Waitrose reports an 80% sales increase in plant-based BBQ products as well as a jump in searches for vegan products on its website.
At the peak of stock-buying food during the pandemic, there was a 90% increase in US-sales of vegan food compared to the previous year – and the sales continued to grow in the following weeks. The growth rate of vegan meat was twice as fast as that of animal-based meat. At the same time, the production of meat products is declining.
Predictions expect a 3% drop in global meat consumption due to the pandemic disrupting traditional meat production worldwide. The reasons for this disruption are twofold. On the one hand, consumers have chosen more natural and healthy foods since the beginning of the pandemic, as well as potentially considering plant-based foods as a safe protein source. On the other hand, coronavirus outbreaks in meat processing plants in Germany, the UK and the US sparked by poor working conditions have not only partially led to meat shortages but also highlighted issues with the livestock industry, leading consumers to seek out alternative proteins.
EVU and its French member organisation Association Végétarienne de France (AVF) are objecting to plans of the French government to introduce a ban on ‘meaty names’ for vegan and vegetarian alternative foods once more.
Find our joint press release here.
8 June 2020
New consumer study reveals Europeans are willing to change their eating habits towards more plant-based foods
Two weeks after the European Commission presented its “Farm to Fork” strategy for sustainable food and farming, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) published the findings of their survey on consumer attitudes towards sustainable food.
BEUC is the umbrella group representing independent national consumer organisations on a European level. The survey was conducted in 11 EU countries with over 11,000 participating consumers between October and November of 2019.
Environmental consequences of the current food system include biodiversity loss, water, air and soil pollution, environmental degradation, and enormous greenhouse gas emissions. Although consumers are already changing their habits towards more sustainable diets, for instance by reducing their red meat intake and buying more organic food, a truly sustainable food system requires substantial change.
The survey examined consumer attitudes, willingness to change, and perceived obstacles to adapting more sustainable diets. The findings and associated recommendations can support policymakers in shaping a more sustainable European food system.
Consumers tend to underestimate the impact of their own eating habits, with on average 63.6% disagreeing that their food habits have negative effects on the environment. They are also unaware that food is the most important contributor to negative environmental consequences of consumption in the EU.
Although over 50% of consumers indicate that their eating habits are influenced by concerns over sustainability issues, they also specify several challenges to sustainable food choices such as identifying sustainable options, price, lack of knowledge and limited availability.
44.9% of consumers are willing to change their eating habits towards more plant-based foods. Already over 40% of consumers claim to have stopped or reduced their red meat intake and a fifth are planning to. At the same time, more than a third are unwilling to eat less red meat. Decreasing dairy consumption was declared even more of a challenge, with only 20.4% willing to reduce their dairy intake and 56.2% unwilling. 4.6% of participants consider themselves vegetarian or vegan.
Only 10.3% of consumers consider insects and only 13.4% consider cultured meat an alternative, while plant-based alternatives and traditional vegetarian dishes are more likely to be chosen as sources of protein, with more than a third of consumers willing to replace meat with non-GMO plant-based alternatives and two thirds with traditional vegetarian food such as vegetable stew or pulses.
Lastly, consumers were asked about measures to make food production and consumption more sustainable. 57% wish for compulsory sustainability information of food labels, whereas only a quarter would want less sustainable food to be taxed higher. Over a third of respondents agree that farmers and food producers should be given stricter regulations on sustainability standards and over half would support incentives such as subsidies. Finally, consumers want their governments to take leadership in making the shift to a more sustainable food system.
One interesting question revolved around denominations for vegan and vegetarian alternatives to meat products. BEUC asked participants: “To what extent do you agree that companies use meat-related names like sausage and burger to describe meat-free vegetarian products (e.g. a veggie burger)?” While this question is asking for people’s personal opinion on meat-related terms for vegan and vegetarian alternatives and is, therefore, from EVU’s point of view, not suitable to determine the usefulness or comprehensibility of these product names, the results are nonetheless encouraging. BEUC states: “ […] most consumers do not appear to be concerned about the naming of veggie ‘burgers’ or ‘sausages’, as long as the products are clearly identifiable as vegetarian/vegan.” Indeed, almost 70% of consumers did not have a problem with this practice, 11% had no opinion and 20% thought that it shouldn’t be allowed. These results are another strong argument against the efforts of the agricultural committee of the European Parliament to put a comprehensive ban on these food denominations.
Although the study revealed consumer willingness to adopt more sustainable diets, the trend is not sufficient in achieving a sustainable food system. BEUC therefore includes several recommendations, which are in line with some of EVU’s demands.
Public awareness, particularly concerning the environmental impact of people’s food choices, must be increased, best achieved through dietary guidelines accounting for nutrition and sustainability as well as food labelling.
Especially the adoption of more plant-based diets through positive messaging and more meat-free options in catering and hospitality as well as by providing alternative protein sources is encouraged. Prices could also signal sustainable choices.
Lastly, action concerning production, retail and regulation is required, in order to enable consumers to make sustainable food choices.
27 May 2020
On 20 May 2020, the long-awaited and repeatedly postponed “Farm to Fork Strategy” (F2F) of the European Commission has been published. F2F is part of the Commission’s “Green Deal”, which seeks to put the European Union on a more sustainable, environmental- and climate-friendly path. For EVU it is clear that this can only be achieved if it includes a clear commitment to the reduction of the current consumption and production levels of animal products and recognises the need for a diet shift towards plant-based diets. F2F is the policy roadmap that supposedly aims at making Europe’s food system more sustainable. F2F lives up to some expectations, but could deliver more we believe.
The now published version of F2F shows significant deviations from earlier versions circulating. A draft seen on 19 May, just one day before the publication, contained statements regarding animal agriculture that were deleted or altered again in the end:
The draft version stated that “[…] the Commission will propose to stop stimulating production or consumption of meat. In this context, a review of the EU promotion programme for agricultural products will be conducted, […]”. EVU had recently reported on the millions of Euros of subsidies spent on meat consumption campaigns such as “Pork Lovers Europe”. A proposal from the European executive to halt such public spendings would have been an important first step in paving the way towards a reduction of animal products. However, the sentence was deleted from the final version and it now states: “[…] the Commission is undertaking a review of the EU promotion programme for agricultural products, with a view to enhancing its contribution to sustainable production and consumption, and in line with the evolving diets. In relation to meat, that review should focus on how the EU can use its promotion programme to support the most sustainable, carbon-efficient methods of livestock production.” Such a significant deviation from an otherwise timely measure in the shift towards a more sustainable food system, begs the question whether the Commission was catering to specific stakeholders’ interests when changing the phrasing. Especially since this is not the only noticeable change: Even in general, in scientifically sound statements like “Moving to a more plant-based diet and less meat will reduce not only risks of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, but also the environmental impact of the food system.” the words “less meat” have been replaced with “less red and processed meat”, the reference to cancer was simply deleted. When comparing the different versions of F2F it seems like the Commission has back-pedalled on a lot of stronger language.
This is particularly problematic as both the draft versions and the published F2F acknowledge that a diet shift is needed. They mention that nearly 70 % of the overall emissions of the agricultural sector are linked to the livestock industry. They also acknowledge that if diets were more in line with dietary guidelines, it would also have implications for their environmental footprint and it notes that the average intake of whole-grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes is too low, especially in comparison to the excess intake of energy, red meats, sugars, salt, and fat. Furthermore, the Commission intends to make the healthy and sustainable choice the easy one for consumers.
Other intentions in the F2F include empowering consumers, making public food procurement more sustainable, revising the school scheme, and researching in the field of alternative proteins. All in all, from EVU’s point of view, F2F delivers a rudimentary approach to changing the European food system, but lacks clear and ambitious action points. While F2F is not supposed to present legislative proposals or immediate policy overhaul, as it is only a strategic roadmap, stronger language, and commitment, for example by introducing reduction targets with regards to animal agriculture as well as leaving in the stronger parts of the draft versions would have been desirable.
However, what probably matters most is that the Commission has delivered the most ambitious food agenda since the Food Safety White Paper 2000. Details matter and wording too, but the overall objective is ambitious. The Commission has also taken the year 2030 in view to implement changes to the food system that bring Europe’s food chain close to sustainable production and consumption patterns. Over the next ten years and for the tenure of the current Commission the EVU is keen to work with the EU institutions, Member States and other stakeholders to make everything around food more sustainable. The promotion of vegetarian lifestyles is part of the policy mix needed – and this is the point we will continue to press.
30 April 2020
Corona and the latest developments in the agricultural sector
In December 2019, a novel Coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China, which jumped the species barrier from an animal host to humans, causing the infectious disease covid-19. A few months later, the virus has spread throughout the world, with over 3 million cases in 213 countries and over 208 thousand confirmed deaths, according to the WHO. Drastic measures are being taken by governments to prevent further spreading, leading to travel and contact restrictions, the closure of schools and shops and event cancellations. We are currently experiencing a global crisis that affects the lives of billions of people.
75% of emerging viral diseases originate in animals. This makes the coronavirus only the latest in line of so-called zoonotic diseases such as swine flu, avian flu, Ebola and HIV, causing more and more experts to urge mankind to rethink our relationship to animals, both wild and domesticated. Especially intensive livestock farming is said to have a twofold link to the spread of pandemics. On the one hand, the animal industry massively contributes to climate change and exploits natural resources, leading to the destruction of ecosystems, and a decline in biodiversity and habitat loss. This in turn increases the risk of a virus spillover to both humans and farm animals, as ecosystems become less resilient and our distance to wildlife decreases. In fact, 31% of emerging infectious diseases can be traced back to land-use change due to agricultural intensification. On the other hand, industrial animal farms themselves can provide a breeding ground for diseases, given the often cramped and unhygienic conditions genetically similar animals are kept in.
The current pandemic and its massive impact show that in order to prevent similar scenarios in the future, it is pertinent to reform our food system: Although NGO’s and EU politicians such as Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski and Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius show commitment to making the farming sector more sustainable, political roadmaps such as the “Farm to Fork Strategy”, which is the agriculture-related part of the Commission’s “Green Deal”, are being postponed. The “Green Deal” itself is said to be “overshadowed” by the coronavirus, with many of its initiatives delayed. The Czech prime minister even demanded to neglect the “Green Deal” altogether. The European People’s Party (EPP) and the farmer’s lobby call for further postponement of the “Farm to Fork Strategy”, arguing that it would be an additional burden for farmers, who are concerned with food supply issues amidst the crisis. While food supply is certainly one of the most important goals of the agricultural sector, the current crisis must not be used as an excuse to maintain an unsustainable status quo.
The agriculture sector faces a multitude of problems in these times of crisis and animal agriculture is particularly affected: While the consumption of milk and meat has already partly declined before the pandemic, the crisis is now exacerbating sales drops. Many farmers have lost their market outlet due to foodservice closures, which led to a significant decrease in EU meat and milk consumption. British farmers warn that they might have to resort to culling their cows. This is already a reality in the US, where chickens and pigs were affected, due to labour shortages in slaughterhouses and processing plants. However, to prevent meat shortages, US president Trump has signed an order, forcing meat production plants to stay open, as they are now classified as critical infrastructure.
The sales drop in Europe has prompted the farmer’s lobby and meat lobby to call for market support measures from the EU Commission. So far, the EU announced exceptional measures including market support programmes and private storage aid for milk and meat products, which is supposed to reduce oversupply. While the farmer’s lobby welcomes this step and calls for further action, stakeholders such as the European Milk Board (EMB) as well as 14 members of the European Parliament promote reducing the overall production of milk instead.
While it is clear that farmers face a difficult situation and the animal agriculture sector is massively impacted by the crisis, support measures should go hand in hand with sustainable reforms which strive to prevent future health crises and climate change, the latter of which, according to the European Court of Auditors, will be most important to maintain food security in the future. The meat and milk sector should not be simply bailed out without having a vision and roadmap for its future direction. Otherwise it continues to harm animals, humans, and the planet. We are not only on the cusp of another major health crisis mainly caused by intensive animal agriculture – antimicrobial resistance, which is already costing hundreds of thousands of lives annually – but climate change also remains an imminent threat, not only to agriculture.
The current crisis has put another spotlight on the unsustainable and unsafe production and consumption levels of animal-based foods. Now is the time to rethink the way we produce, trade and consume food. A paradigm shift in food and agriculture is needed, aimed at reducing livestock production and the consumption of animal-based products while, at the same time, boosting the production of plant-based products for human consumption. Ultimately, this could contribute to shaping a more resilient food system and preventing future crises. Therefore, it is crucial that the EU quickly moves forward with its sustainability initiatives such as the “Farm to Fork Strategy”.
10 March 2020
Millions to promote meat-eating
In mid-February 2020, the Guardian pointed to EU subsidies going to advertisements for European meat products. The news outlet depicts research from the animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier from the Netherlands, saying that “€60m has been spent in the last three years on 21 meat marketing campaigns”. The money is apparently spent in light of a decrease in meat consumption in Europe.
Looking at the official European Commission website for one of the campaigns being subsidised – “Pork lovers Europe” – this kind of reasoning seems outrageous. The campaign, receiving roughly 1.4 million Euros of public money, states that “The consumption of pork meat in Europe has decreased in recent years. In the EU-27 in 2008, we had consumption per capita of 41.7kg. In 2015, this number fell to 40.9kg. Therefore, it is very important to promote pork meat to restore the confidence of the consumer […]” Given that this reduced consumption level is still above what is being recommended by nutritional agencies as a maximum meat intake from a health perspective and these are the numbers for only one type of meat at the same time, this trend is nowhere near what it should look like. Public money being spent to counter these small and slow steps in the right direction sends a problematic message. Other campaigns, such as the promotion of Dutch veal, received as many as 6 million Euros, according to the Guardian.
As the EU Commission is working on its “Green Deal”, these kinds of subsidies need to be re-evaluated not just from a health-, but also from an environmental perspective. Subsidising advertisements for an industry that is massively contributing to global warming and that is already receiving public money from the Common Agriculture Policy, is not in line with the Commission’s ambitions for a more sustainable Europe.
As the meat industry is mobilising with advertisements and other campaigns such as the “Meat the facts” initiative to react to growing consumer awareness and changing dietary patterns, plant-based producers start raising their voices: The Dutch “Vegetarian Butcher” recently started an initiative applying for meat subsidies to get a share of this public money for their meat alternatives.
9 March 2020
Will the “Farm-to-Fork” Strategy deliver on diet shift?
As the new European Commission picked up its work at the end of 2019 and promised a new “Green Deal” for all policy sectors, things in the agriculture and food sector started to get moving at the beginning of 2020, as well.
One of the first things announced for the “Green Deal” was the responsibility of the Directorate General Health and Food Safety over a “Farm-to-Fork” Strategy. The strategy is set to be presented at the end of March, but first drafts have been leaked virtually since the announcement. Earlier drafts have been missing a clear commitment to a dietary shift from animal-based to plant-based foods, yet there were some reference points to EVU’s goals: “empower consumers to make sustainable food choices”; “promote healthy and sustainable diets” and “proteins for the future” were some of the buzz words mentioned.
The latest leaked draft, however, while it is still missing concrete action points and measures to bring about a wide-spread diet change, at least mentions the positive impact of shifting to plant-based diets: In the explanatory, introductory text it states under point 2.3 “Promoting sustainable food consumption, facilitating the shift towards healthy, sustainable diets”: “Therefore, a dietary change towards a healthier diet, such as a shift from an animal-based to a plant-based diet, can not only reduce risk of life-threatening diseases such as cancer but also reduce the environmental impact of the food system.” If this acknowledgement of the advantages of plant-based eating remains in the final version of a major policy paper such as the “Farm-to-Fork” Strategy, it would be a huge step forward and an excellent basis to communicate and negotiate with the European Commission on concrete political actions in this area.
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the final, published strategy paper will include this acknowledgement and whether the Commission will actually commit to political actions leading to diet change. The pressure from certain stakeholders remains strong: As the new Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, cautiously criticised intensive pig and cattle farming in some EU countries with regards to sustainability, the backlash from the meat industry followed immediately in the form of a complaint letter to the Commissioner. As public awareness of the need for changes in consumption patterns rises, this kind of pressure from the livestock industry is not likely to decline. EVU will closely watch how the Commission will deal with these conflicts of interests and put its topics on the Commission’s agenda where possible and necessary.
7 February 2020
EP debate on meat charge
On 5 February 2020, the True Animal Protein Price Coalition (TAPPC) from the Netherlands co-hosted a debate at the European Parliament together with Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) about their report on a sustainability charge for meat. Ronja Berthold from EVU was also present and followed the discussions.
TAPPC is a coalition of various organisations, including health, animal welfare and environmental organisations, but also farmers and food companies. TAPPC designs policies for fairer meat and dairy prices, which include external costs of the current levels of overconsumption and -production of these foods. TAPPC and EVU’s member organisation ProVeg co-funded the report “A sustainability charge on meat” commissioned by CE Delft, a research and consultancy organisation.
The CE Delft report explores a charge on meat that includes its external social costs, which are currently not represented in the supermarket prices. These social costs result mainly from environmental pollution, such as emissions and biodiversity impacts. The charge was also calculated to rise over the years with regards to the goal of the Paris Agreement. The charge would start with 42 Euro cents for beef, 32 cents for pig meat and 15 cents for chicken meat in 2021 and would rise to up to 4,77 Euros for beef in 2030. The report calculates that this would lead to emission reductions of 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2021. It also suggests that the revenues generated by this charge, which would be collected by the government as it acts like a tax, could be used to help farmers transition to more sustainable farming practices.
The presentation of the report in the European Parliament was an important step in starting a Europe-wide discussion around the true costs of the current levels of production and consumption of animal products. It was even picked up by several media outlets, such as the Guardian and Le Monde. The debate has so far primarily been active on the national level – most recently in Germany, where members of almost all major political groups have been speaking out in favour of a meat tax or an adjustment of the VAT rates for animal products and even a governmental advisory board has suggested such measures.
7 January 2020
Court acknowledges veganism as a philosophical belief
A legal dispute over the dismissal of an employee at the “League against cruel sports”, a UK-based animal rights organisation, has recently led to an important court decision for vegans.
The employment tribunal in Norwich that is in charge of this case has firstly ruled that ethical veganism is comparable to a philosophical belief and, therefore, subject to laws against discrimination. For beliefs to be protected in the UK, they have to be compatible with human dignity and not conflicting with other peoples’ fundamental rights. The court now confirmed this for ethical veganism and the anti-discrimination “Equality Act” of the UK would consequently extend to ethical vegans.
While this was just the first part of the ruling in this case (the second part will determine whether the employee’s philosophical belief led to his dismissal), it is a very important legal decision that could have wide-spread consequences. Vegans regularly have trouble getting access to viable alternatives, be it in schools, workplaces or public facilities. The recognition of veganism as a philosophical belief, similar to religions, and its protection against discrimination, could have an impact on how vegans will be able to deal with these kinds of obstacles.
5 December 2019
More funding for Research and Innovation on plant-based and cultured animal products
On the 26 September, EVU and other organisations wrote a joint letter addressed to the European Commission. The letter illustrates reasons for providing significant funding for Research and Innovation (R&I) on plant-based and cultured meat, eggs, dairy and seafood. As part of Horizon Europe, the 9th Framework Programme for R&I in the period of 2021-2027, the NGO coalition asks for 5 billion euros to be allocated to plant-based and cultured substitutes. The European Union has the potential to take the lead in research in the field of alternative proteins, considering that this is a key component in the transition to a sustainable food system.
Less than two months later, Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research and Innovation at the time, responded. He underlined the fact that the European Commission is “fully aware of the growing pressure of the global environment and health caused by our overconsumption of animal protein”. He recognised the unsustainable character of the animal-protein diets and agreed that more funding for alternative proteins is needed. However, a concrete commitment or further details on the support from the Commission were missing in the response.
EVU welcomes the Commissioner’s response. It is an important signal showing that this topic has found its way in the EU’s policies. Nevertheless, we will stay active in the continuing process and remind the Commission of the imperative of increasing the funding for alternatives to animal proteins in terms of climate protection and health, especially with regards to the newly instated leadership of the institution.
3 December 2019
New Commission starts its term
The European Parliament approved the College of Commissioners suggested by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on 27 November 2019. The College had a rocky start after the “Spitzenkandidaten” principle was abandoned and several originally proposed candidates neglected by MEPs after their hearings in the respective Committees.
The new Commission officially started its work on 1 December 2019. There are 26 Commissioners from each of the member states (not counting Germany which provides the President). Some of the Directorate Generals (DGs), which can be compared to ministries, have slightly changed their structure in comparison to the preceding term and executive vice-president Frans Timmermans will have a coordinating role to set up a “Green Deal” for Europe, which touches on several DGs’ policy areas and will be the focal point of the EU’s climate policies.
Here is an overview of the other portfolios EVU will be following:
Agriculture: The Polish candidate Janusz Wojciechowski (PiS) will be Phil Hogan’s successor as Commissioner for Agriculture. Hogan changes to the Trade portfolio. According to media reports, Wojciechowski had a questionable debut, as virtually all political groups were disappointed by his answers given in the Committee hearings. He needed a second hearing to be approved by the Agriculture Committee MEPs, while the Environment Committee still rejected him. His stance and direction in the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) remains to be seen. However, he has hinted that Hogan’s proposal for a CAP reform is not set in stone. EVU will closely watch the developments, especially surrounding proposals within the Common Market Organisation that suggest to ban “meaty” names for plant-based alternatives.
Health and Food Safety: This DG is especially interesting to EVU as it is the one responsible for issuing an implementing act on the definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” in voluntary food labelling. EVU has been lobbying the Commission for years on this topic. We will make sure to remind the new Cypriot Commissioner Stella Kyriakides (DISY) of the Commission’s duty in this respect and will contact her soon.
Justice & Environment, Oceans and Fisheries: The Justice portfolio, now led by Belgian Didier Reynders (MR) entails consumer protection issues. As the representation of the millions of vegans and vegetarians throughout Europe, EVU also tries to make sure that their consumer rights are met. We advocate for an extensive and inclusive vegetarian meal supply in public canteens. As a huge proportion of the EU’s food is distributed in public canteens, making their offers more plant-based would also have a positive environmental impact. Environment and agriculture and food go hand in hand and we want to make sure that the negative externalities of Europe’s livestock sector are diminished. DG Environment, Oceans and Fisheries will be led by Lithuanian Virginijus Sinkevičius (LVŽS).
Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth: This portfolio, now headed by Bulgarian Mariya Gabriel (GERB), could be interesting in terms of innovation and research in the plant-based food sector. Plant-based alternatives for animal products are on the rise and still have a lot of potential in their development. Opportunities also lie in cellular agriculture methods, which are still largely financed by private investments (see our following news article on this topic). Educational measures have to take more strongly into consideration the relationship between food and eating habits and climate-related impacts.
According to von der Leyen’s mission letters to the designated Commissioners, many of these DGs will have to closely cooperate, as they all have to comply with the broader policy objective of the “Green Deal”. While the details of this framework remain to be seen, it has already been announced that a “farm to fork” strategy will be part of it. The strategy will have its kick-off in early December and EVU will report on the developments.
2 December 2019
EP declares climate emergency
The European Parliament declared climate emergency for the European Union on 28 November 2019. Shortly after the instalment of the new European Commission, led by the German ex-minister for defence, Ursula von der Leyen, the Parliament adopted a resolution on climate emergency in Strasbourg with 429 votes in favour against 225 objecting and 19 abstaining. The resolution is a prelude to the new Commission’s announcement of developing a “Green Deal” for Europe.
While many media reports were claiming that this resolution was rather a symbolic act, it nevertheless sends an important message to the Commission to step up on its climate change policies. It has shown that the vast majority of MEPs support the goal of the Paris agreement to limit global warming to under 1.5° C and for Europe to lead the way to climate neutrality.
EVU will closely be following the developments and ambitions in policies regarding agriculture and its role in the climate crisis. The new Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski (see next article), will have to deliver on the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) that is currently re-evaluated. The proposal for a reform of the CAP has sparked criticism from civil society, but also from within the institutions, as the European Court of Auditors noted that the CAP reform is seriously lacking in adequate design and actions to address climate change.
The majority of food-related emissions are caused by the livestock sector, which is responsible for around 16% of the global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. EVU calls for a reduction in the consumption and production of animal foods and encourages policies that create a favourable framework for plant-based eating. See our elaborate position paper for the current European legislative term here.
27 November 2019
Veganz’ European Consumers Survey
Veganz is the first completely vegan supermarket chain in Europe with stores in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. For World Vegan Day, the company conducted a consumer survey in 15 countries and questioned more than 24.000 people. To present the results, Veganz used a sample of 3.000 people representing every country and demographics. Thus, the firm tried to find out the habits of consumers from all walks of life: What motivates vegans and non-vegans? What are their concerns? What do they think about new and emerging technologies such as in-vitro meat produced in labs?
The survey presented interesting results to examine the plant-based trend among vegans, vegetarians, meat-eaters and others. Apparently, vegans place great value on animal welfare and sustainability, showing the connection between a plant-based lifestyle and climate action. Consequentially, 80% of vegans buy their food from organic markets. Among vegans, 74% respect and trust certain certification labels. Furthermore, the majority of vegans (88,1%) are very open to substitute products: Milk substitutes are in the lead, but they are also interesting for milk intolerant people (including those that are lactose intolerant).
Additionally, the results show a significant interest of meat-eaters for in-vitro animal products. More than a third would eat cultivated cheese or meat. In this regard, health is one of the most important purchasing criteria for meat-eaters: In-vitro products have the potential to present lower risk in terms of food safety than conventional animal products, as they are grown outside of the animal and can be free of impurities, antibiotics or parasites. Nevertheless, the vegan community is also enthusiastic about cultivated products, in particular, in-vitro cheese. Meaty and cheesy alternatives are at the top of the most sought-after vegan alternatives.
EVU sees an opportunity for more research and innovation in plant-based and cultured animal products to meet consumers expectations and contribute to a sustainable food transition.
14 November 2019
Scientific community calls for diet change
In the past few weeks, alarming calls from the scientific community to fight climate change have become increasingly strong, underlining the importance of changing our eating habits. At the local, national or international level, scientists are calling for drastic change. They describe it as a “moral obligation to warn humanity” about the danger of our current lifestyles.
60 scientists from 11 countries asked mayors in an open letter to reduce animal products in public canteens, 11.000 scientists from 153 countries urged people to eat less meat in the face of climate emergency and another 2.500 scientists demanded that the EU reforms its Common Agricultural Policy towards sustainability. All of these scientific calls emphasize the need to reduce the consumption of animal products and change to predominantly plant-based diets in order to cope with the climate crisis.
EVU urges decision-makers and politicians to act on scientific evidence and improve the framework for plant-based diets. This includes inter alia veggie-friendly food labelling, taxation policies as well as incentives to reduce animal consumption and production. For more information on EVU’s key political demands, have a look at our “Three Pillars for a Sustainable European Food System”.
8 November 2019
ProVeg publishes Plant Milk Report
At the end of October, our German member organisation, ProVeg, published an elaborate Plant Milk Report, coordinated by Anna-Lena Klapp, Research Officer. The report, which is available in English and German, analyses several aspects of the main kinds of plant milk on the market, including health-related, environmental, economic and political matters.
For each plant milk listed, the report identifies corresponding nutritional values and outlines several health-related facts. It emphasises that plant milks are more environmentally friendly than cow’s milk. Furthermore, the report gives an economic outlook for the next few years: As the number of consumers continues to grow, cultured milk, i.e. cow’s milk that is produced in laboratories from cell cultures, could become the next market disruption.
Moreover, the report dedicates a whole chapter to political issues surrounding plant milk. European law provides a particularly restrictive and irregular framework for the naming of plant-based dairy alternatives. While “coconut milk” or “peanut butter” are legal sales denominations, “soy milk” or “cashew cheese” are not. At the same time, the plant milk market is hampered by national fiscal regulations. Although the legume, grain, nut, and seed alternatives are more environmentally and animal-friendly, as well as healthier, they are subject to the regular value-added tax rate in many European countries, while dairy products from animals fall under the reduced rate. EVU advocates for tax reforms that change the unfair and unjustified tax advantage of animal-based dairy products as well as for a revision of the untimely labelling framework for dairy alternatives.
7 November 2019
Petition on CO2 labelling for food products
The well-known oat milk producing company Oatly, recently promoted a petition in Germany requesting CO2 equivalent emission labelling for food products. Oatly reasons that consumers have a right to get information on their food products, yet climate impact-related information can currently only hardly be obtained. For this reason, Oatly started this petition to make the food industry provide on-package numbers on their climate footprint.
For EVU, this initiative is interesting and worthy of consideration. Such food labelling could be valuable for consumers to make more sustainable consumption decisions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for approximately 14.5 per cent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Many people are not aware that animal products have a significantly higher impact on the environment than plant-based products, therefore, such labelling would clarify the role of different food choices in climate change.
9 October 2019
The Annals of Internal Medicine publishes questionable study results
A recently published study by the Annals of Internal Medicine recommends that consumers continue with their meat-eating habits, as reducing red and processed meat intake does not have a significant health-improving effect. This message contradicts healthy eating recommendations from nutritional agencies and institutions such as the American Heart Association.
To date, there have been many scientists and institutions showing the importance to reduce red or processed meat consumption for health reasons. The World Health Organisation classified processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic in 2015. Furthermore, in its Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity, the American Cancer Society recommends to reduce consumption of processed and red meat. In Europe, The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends not to eat more than 300-600g of meat per week for health reasons, meanwhile the average person in Germany consumes twice as much.
Many scientists have expressed their disagreement with the findings of the Annals of Internal Medicine study. The Harvard School of Public Health published an article reviewing the scientific process behind the study and explaining why these guidelines are inconsistent with several important principles in public health, ignoring as well the negative effects of processed and red meat consumption on the environment. Furthermore, the True Health Initiative released a response to the Annals of Internal Medicine calling on scientists, nutritionists and consumers to reconsider the study’s results, since they “are simply using an ill-fitting measuring tool (GRADE), which is built to evaluate pharmaceuticals, and not lifestyle intervention.”
For health-related, ethical and environmental reasons, EVU recommends a whole-food plant-based diet. The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health published a report earlier this year, outlining that diets, which are healthy and sustainable for humans as well as the planet, have, among other aspects, “low amounts of animal source foods”. Plant-based eating and reducing the consumption of animal products can be healthier and more sustainable.
6 September 2019
Public consultation on Horizon Europe
The European Union is set to spend 100 billion Euros between the years 2021 and 2027 on research and innovation within its Horizon Europe framework programme. The EU is currently working on the Strategic Plan for this programme as well as identifying the funding priorities.
EVU saw an opportunity to point European decision-makers to the intersectional solutions plant-based foods can offer. Horizon Europe is dedicated to contribute to global challenges, the Sustainable Development Goals and EU policy priorities such as sustainability and fairness. Switching to plant-based diets can have a positive impact on all of these fields. The current levels of production and consumption of animal products are unsustainable, unhealthy and cause climate- and environment-related damages. Therefore, EVU contributed to the public consultation on Horizon Europe and requested that more research and innovation funding be dedicated to plant-based foods and cellular agriculture. Plant- and cell-based alternatives to animal products can be more climate- and environment-friendly, sustainable and healthy and are worth to further explore and improve as well as invest in.
See EVU’s contribution to the consultation here.
28 August 2019
UN-report calls for rethinking in agriculture
On 8 August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report on global warming and land systems. The report deals with the issues of climate protection, food security and the fight against desertification and land degradation. It draws the conclusion that plant-based foods play a crucial role in meeting these challenges.
Current land use is not sustainable: peatlands are being destroyed, forests cleared and agriculture intensified. All this accelerates climate change, threatens food security and contributes to soil destruction. Animal agriculture is a massive driver of these problems. Therefore, current production and consumption levels of animal products have to be decreased.
According to the UN-scientists, diet changes towards diets involving more plant-based foods do not only reduce the amount of climate-damaging emissions but also contribute to global food security and relieve pressure on land demand. The report concludes that the consumption of diets “such as those based on coarse grains, pulses and vegetables, and nuts and seeds […] presents major opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions” . EVU calls on policymakers to take the UN-report into account and shift towards a more sustainable and plant-based agriculture and land use.
You can find the IPCC report here.
 IPCC (2019): Climate Change and Land, an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems, p. 5-6
13 August 2019
UK House of Lords concerned about “veggie burger ban”
In April 2019, the Committee of Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) of the European Parliament (EP) adopted an amendment to the EP’s position on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that would potentially ban the use of terms like ‘veggie burger’ for plant-based products. On 24 July, the UK House of Lords sent a letter to the Agriculture Minister of the UK at the time, Robert Goodwill, questioning the proposed legislative intervention of the EU in the common labelling practice.
Previously, the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee of the UK Parliament held an oral evidence session regarding the “veggie burger ban” on 19 June. Different stakeholders got involved in the discussion. EVU submitted written evidence, expressing its position that ‘meaty’ names for vegetarian and vegan products guide consumers in their purchase decisions and are not misleading as long as the plant-based nature is clearly communicated. In the aftermath of the oral evidence session, the House of Lords sent a letter to the Minister of agriculture. In the letter, the Lords raise the concern that the proposed restrictions may cause confusion and hinder the growth of the vegan and vegetarian market sector. Peers further acknowledge the benefits of less meat-intensive diets for health and environment and are therefore worried that the proposal will make it “more challenging for people to reduce the amount of meat in their diet at a time when Government should be seeking to encourage the opposite.” EVU welcomes the House of Lords’ support for consumer-friendly labelling, climate action and public health and calls on the British Ministry of agriculture to consider their opinion.
You can find more information here.
26 July 2019
EVU sends joint letters to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development
The members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) of the European Parliament have been appointed and their first meetings have already taken place. EVU takes this as an opportunity to draw the MEPs’ attention to the necessity of revising the current proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
On 10 July, the day of the constitutive AGRI meeting, EVU sent a first joint letter to its members. As part of a broad coalition of NGOs, producers and farmers, EVU called on MEPs to work towards a fundamental green and fair reform of the CAP. The CAP after 2020 should be able to tackle climate change, prevent the loss of biodiversity and ensure the sustainable production and consumption of food.
The second joint letter, which was sent to MEPs on 25 July, tackles the issue of the “veggie-burger-ban”. The last agricultural committee adopted a proposal that would severely harm the labelling practice of plant-based milk and meat alternatives. An alliance of ten NGOs, therefore, urges MEPs to reject any proposal restricting the denominations of plant-based products.
10 July 2019
EU-Mercosur-Agreement supports livestock farming
After 20 years of negotiations, the EU and the four Mercosur countries, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay have reached an agreement on a free trade treaty. If ratified by the EU member states, the pact would allow the four South American countries to export agricultural goods to Europe at lower tariffs. Especially the trade in beef and soy would benefit.
Mercosur countries are responsible for about 90% of the EU’s soybean meal imports. Without this massive import, the European surplus production of meat and milk could not be maintained. Furthermore, more than 70% of the EU’s beef imports come from South America. The treaty aims to increase the quantities of beef traded, even though the European market for animal products is saturated. The cultivation of soy for fodder and the production of beef are major drivers for climate change and environmental destruction. The rise in production of soy and beef in South America could not only release more greenhouse gas emissions but also require additional cultivation and grazing areas. The pact will thus risk the acceleration of deforestation in the Amazon region. This is especially problematic in light of the commitment of the treaty parties to the Paris Agreement, which requires engagement against deforestation.
The impact of the agreement could be devastating. From a health, climate and environment point of view, the production and consumption of animal products in the EU has already exceeded an acceptable level. Therefore, EVU calls on policymakers to promote sustainable, healthy and climate-friendly plant-based food production instead of agreements potentially fostering farming practices that have extensive negative impacts.
14 June 2019
Withheld Study showed current CAP’s inability to tackle climate change
The recently released final report titled “Evaluation study of the impact of the CAP on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions” by the European Economic Interest Grouping analyses the impact of the current Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) measures on climate change and illustrates their inability to address the role of animal-based products as greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters.
According to the Guardian, the study remained unpublished for a year. During this time, the European Union had already been negotiating CAP for the legislative period after 2020. Against this background, the withholding of the study seems extremely problematic. Especially since it provided policy recommendations for the EU and its member states that could have been taken into account for the design of the future CAP.
The report also proved that current agricultural policies are not giving adequate attention to the topic of sustainable production and consumption of food. EVU highlights the potential plant-based diets, as well as the reduction of livestock numbers, have to mitigate climate change. EVU, therefore, calls on EU-policymakers to address the problem of GHG emissions caused by current levels of livestock production and consumption within the CAP negotiations.
21 May 2019
European Elections: EVU calls for a shift towards a sustainable food system
As the elections for the European Parliament are drawing closer, EVU publishes core demands for the next legislature to consider in order to reshape the European food system. European food and agriculture policies have failed to adequately address urgent environmental, animal welfare, climate- and health-related issues. In particular, the current levels of production and consumption of animal products are unsustainable as they negatively affect the health of both humans and animals, environment and climate, and resource availability. One of the biggest political instruments steering the direction of agricultural policies is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The current EU legislature has started negotiations around a reform of CAP for after 2020, which the next Parliament, Commission and Council will continue. Now is the time to set a new course for the European food system for the next decades. EVU calls for a paradigm shift, aimed at reducing livestock production and the consumption of animal-based products while at the same time boosting the production of plant-based products for human consumption. For this purpose, concrete targets, impactful measures, and clear timelines must be defined by EU policymakers. These must culminate in an EU-wide reduction strategy for animal products. Taking all this into account EVU suggests
‘Three Pillars for a Sustainable European Food System’
1. Utilise the potential of plant-based foods
2. Facilitate a regulatory framework for dietary change
3. Use CAP to ensure sustainable food production and consumption, as well as environmental and animal protection.
Find more details and EVU’s multiple demands in the position paper (PDF)
EVU supports petition to “stop the veggie-burger-ban”
The European Union is set to ban the use of sales denominations like “vegan burger” or “alternative to cheese” for plant-based products. In order to prevent this ban EVU has joined forces with ProVeg International and launched the petition “stop the veggie-burger-ban”.
In April 2019, the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament (AGRI) voted on proposals for amendments concerning the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2020. An amendment which would severely restrict the naming of plant-based products was adopted. It would ban the use of terms such as “vegan burger” or “alternative to cheese” for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. Even though the majority of the AGRI committee voted in favour of the proposal, the “veggie-burger-ban” is not yet set in stone. First of all, the new AGRI committee, which will be constituted after the European elections at the end of May, has to adopt the amendment. Afterwards it has to survive the vote of the plenum on the CAP reform proposal and lastly, the Parliament has to reach an agreement with the Commission and the Council.
Consequently, there are still opportunities to take action against the ban before it would enter into force. That is why EVU encourages everyone to support the petition in order to maintain appealing and informative sales denominations for plant-based foods. Additionally, EVU points to the possibility to send an email to election candidates asking them to support the shift towards a sustainable agricultural policy in Europe.
You can find more information here.
16 April 2019
EU Commission stays inactive concerning legally binding definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”
The number of vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians is growing and the market for plant-based products is developing accordingly. Therefore, precise and informative definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” become more and more crucial. When it comes to food labelling, it is currently unclear what the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” exactly stand for. Neither at European nor at national level legally binding, clear and expressly formulated definitions are in place. European law requires EU-policymakers to resolve this regulatory deficit.
Since 2011, Article 36(3)(b) of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC) (EU) No. 1169/2011 stipulates that the EU Commission has to issue an implementing act on the suitability of a food for vegans and vegetarians. Implementing acts introduce measures ensuring the adoption of laws. Not only the FIC requires EU-policymakers to tackle this issue, the Commission’s working programme for 2018 does, too. In there, the EU Commission has committed to start preparatory work on the definitions in 2019. This commitment was achieved by EVU’s submission at the REFIT platform, which gives stakeholders the possibility to advise the Commission on how to make EU-Regulations more efficient and effective. EVU’s submission was supported by the stakeholder- and member state group, which REFIT is composed of, and got ultimately approved. Until now the EU Commission has failed to fulfil its duty. For this reason, EVU has worked together with MEP Ismail Ertug (S&D), who raised a parliamentary question in December 2018 concerning the timetable for drafting the implementing act.
The answer of the Commission, published in March 2019, declares that “[The Commission] is not in a position to communicate any precise timetable in relation to the preparation of this act”. EU-policymakers are not only shirking their obligation to work on the definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”, but are further ignoring their own working programme. On top of that, they are constraining the establishment of a regulatory framework which would enable consumers to make informed and independent consumption decisions. Therefore, EVU will keep up the political pressure in order to remind the next EU Commission to fulfil its duty.
You can find the parliamentary question and the Commission’s answer here.
29 March 2019
EVU calls on MEPs to support consumer-friendly names of plant-based products
On Monday, 1 April, the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament (AGRI) will vote on proposals for amendments concerning the Common Agriculture Policy after 2020. One of these amendments contains two passages which would lead to severe restrictions in the naming of plant-based milk and meat alternatives, should it be adopted.
The mentioned problematic passages are points 6 and 7 of the so-called Compromise Amendment 41. Point 6 states that terms such as “steak”, “sausage” or “burger” should be reserved exclusively for products containing meat. The usage of sales denominations like “veggie burger” or “vegan sausage” could therefore possibly be prohibited. Moreover, point 7 of the proposal suggests to further tighten the ban of dairy denominations for plant-based products. In the past, it has not been clear whether plant-based dairy alternatives may use descriptions such as “alternative to yoghurt” or “variation to dairy” since there have been contradicting court decisions throughout the EU. The proposed amendment would put a definitive end to such designations.
Informative sales denominations are needed to quickly identify suitable eco- and animal-friendly alternatives to meat and milk products. Since consumers consciously choose plant-based products, they are not confused by terms like “vegan sausage” or “alternative to milk”. In fact, these designations convey important information such as texture or taste. EVU highlights the importance of informative and attractive denominations for meat alternatives and opposes further restrictions for plant-based milk denominations. In order to support plant-based foods, EVU has co-signed an appeal to the AGRI MEPs asking to drop the problematic passages.
11 March 2019
EVU calls for transformation of food system in 2019
2019 heralds many changes at the EU level, with the elections to the new European Parliament and Brexit being the biggest examples of political change. In its new position paper, EVU calls on decision makers to take the opportunity and shift to more sustainability within the European food system.
The position paper takes a look at the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which urgently needs to move away from intensive animal agriculture and support plant-based production and consumption, as this opens up opportunities for animal-welfare, environmental, climate change and public health issues. Another framework that has the potential to positively influence plant-based food, is food labelling. Universal, clear, and consistent rules for what constitutes vegan and vegetarian products, as well as informative and attractive labelling of these products, are needed to help people make informed and independent shopping decisions.
The new political management has to deliver on these topics to set the course for a sustainable future food policy within the EU.
07 March 2019
Opportunities for protein-rich plants in the EU
A recently published report by the EU-Commission titled “Market developments and policy evaluation aspects of the plant protein sector in the EU” shows that the majority of protein-rich plants such as pulses or oilseeds is used as feeding stuff for livestock. The report not only broaches the issue of opportunities for the European plant-protein sector but also highlights the necessity of promoting protein-rich plants for human consumption.
Feed markets account for 94% in volume of protein-rich plants used in the EU, leaving 6% for direct human consumption. Since health and environmental considerations are having an increasing impact on consumers’ food choices, more and more Europeans are choosing plant-based alternatives. Due to the growing number of people adopting flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets, the EU-Commission sees the necessity to further support the development of the plant-protein food market sector.
Besides supporting the supply side via actions on innovations or research, the EU-Commission additionally suggests to better communicate positive product attributes of protein-rich plants to consumers. A way of doing so could be the inclusion of pulses in national nutritional pyramids. For health-, environment- or climate-related reasons, EVU welcomes the EU-Commission’s claim to promote protein-rich plants for human consumption. Furthermore, EVU calls on EU-policymakers to actively support the shift away from animal to plant protein in consumers’ diets.
Read the EU-Commission’s report here.
28 February 2019
Chatham House report: EU must ensure clear and favourable regulatory framework for meat analogues
Current levels of meat consumption significantly contribute to climate change, diet-related diseases and environmental damages. A recently published Chatham House report argues that plant-based and cultured meat represent sustainable alternatives to their resource-intensive animal-based counterparts. In order to unlock the potential of meat analogues for climate and health policies, EU decision-makers should create a framework supporting plant-based and cultured meat. Measures like investments in research, well-thought-out commercialisation or reasonable labelling could be ways of achieving this goal.
EVU also considers improvements in the EU regulatory framework as an important step to bring about the necessary shift towards a more sustainable food system. Reasonable sales denominations, clear packaging as well as precise labelling of products as “vegan” or “vegetarian” will help consumers to make informed and self-determined decisions. EVU encourages decision-makers to rethink current regulatory barriers like the ban of “dairy” names for plant-based milk products or the lack of legally binding definitions for the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” and calls on the EU Commission to promptly issue the implementing act with definitions for these terms, as required by the Food Information Regulation, as well as to support informative food labelling for meat analogues.
Read the Chatham House report here.
14 February 2019
Common Agricultural Policy: EU favours intensive livestock sector
A Greenpeace report published this month depicts the urgent need for a drastic rearrangement of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union. In this report, Greenpeace aimed to unearth the degree to which the CAP subsidises the livestock sector.
In 2017 an estimated 18 to 20 % of the overall EU budget was dedicated to livestock farms. This accounts for 28.5 to 32.6 billion Euros of direct payments and it is not the only money spent on livestock: market support and money from rural development funds come on top of the direct subsidies. At the same time, the European agricultural policy is driving a development towards intensive farming.
The report shows that while the number of farms in the EU rapidly decreases, those that remain are growing in size. This means that there are less, but larger farms with highly industrialised and specialised production methods. This development is especially apparent for livestock rearing farms, where there has been a 32 % drop of the number of farms between 2005 and 2013 and where now ¾ of all livestock is reared on very large farms. At the same time, livestock density and the volume of meat production are continuously increasing. Moreover, 63 % of EU crop farmland is used for fodder production and only a small fraction of livestock is fed on grassland, namely 20 % of cattle and 4 % of dairy cows. As the largest part of the CAP’s subsidies are paid per acreage, this results in an excessive support for the livestock industry.
Considering the huge amount of taxpayer money spent on an industry causing massive environmental as well as climate, health and animal welfare related problems, EVU encourages European decision makers to redesign the CAP so that it supports a transition of the agricultural sector.
24 January 2019
EVU’s EFFL article among the Top 5 of 2018
In last year’s second issue, the European Food and Feed Law Review (EFFL) featured an article written by EVU. EFFL is a bimonthly professional journal dedicated to legal issues in the European Food Sector. EVU’s article focuses on the definition of the terms ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’, sales denominations of veggie-products as well as on the latest political developments in this field.
The analysis of EFFL revealed that EVU’s article belongs to the Top 5 most read contributions in 2018! EVU not only welcomes expert stakeholders’ interest in vegan and vegetarian food labelling but also takes this as a reason to further promote plant-based nutrition on a European level.
Take a look at EVU’s article here.
17 January 2019
Worrisome amendments confirmed to be dropped
The new year starts with good news, as the European Parliament’s questionable amendments 64 and 65 to the Commission’s proposal for an Unfair Trading Practices Directive seem to have been dropped completely.
On 16 November 2018 EVU reported on the two amendments that would have had the potential to seriously undermine animal welfare standards. They would have forbidden retailers to demand higher animal welfare or environmental standards from the producers than those required by law, which for example would have forced retailers to sell eggs from caged laying hens, whereas today the majority only accepts cage-free eggs due to public demand. The draft directive was set to be disputed in so-called “trilogue negotiations” between Council Presidency, Commission and Parliament. As no agreement could be reached in the first rounds of negotiations, the process was expected to be resumed in 2019. Yet, especially the Council Presidency Austria was eager to finalise it before Christmas. As a result, negotiations were concluded in an emergency trilogue meeting on 19 December.
According to our information, both of the questionable amendments have been removed wholly and are no longer part of the Draft Directive on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the food supply chain, which is due to be adopted in Parliament this year. EVU had pledged for their rejection in a co-signed statement with animal welfare organisations and is therefore glad about the outcome.
16 November 2018
EP to countermand animal welfare achievements
On 10 October 2018, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament decided on problematic amendments to the European Commission’s proposal for a “Directive on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the food supply chain”.
The amendments in question, numbers 64 and 65, read as follows:
Art. 3 lit. 1. Member States shall ensure that the following trading practices are prohibited:
AM 64: “A buyer unilaterally imposes quality standards that are not based on current legislation, quality schemes, science or current practices, which may have a distorting effect on trade.”
AM 65: “provisions laid down by the buyer regarding environmental protection and animal welfare standards which are more stringent than the relevant legal provisions in force.”
Should these amendments be included in the directive, it would mean that retailers are prohibited to demand higher animal welfare or environmental standards from the producers than those required by law. As a consequence, it would seriously undermine progress in animal welfare that has been achieved because retailers and food service providers often channel societal demands for higher welfare standards. For example when it comes to eggs from laying hens: Legal provisions allow the animals to be held in cages, whereas many retailers only accept cage-free eggs, due to societal pressure and demand for them. This established practice would not be possible anymore and retailers forced to sell eggs from sources with lower animal welfare standards.
EVU encourages everyone to switch to a plant-based diet. For environmental, resource, health and animal welfare related reasons, overall consumption of animal products should be reduced. If people occasionally include animal-based products in their diet, they should have the opportunity to choose products which have higher welfare criteria in order to signal their expectations towards the future development of the livestock sector. Consumers need freedom of choice in their purchasing decisions, so they can support products according to their notions. This is only possible if their demand is met with an appropriate supply.
Therefore, EVU joined a coalition of animal welfare and other organisations in the field to call on the Council of Ministers to stop amendment 64 and 65 to be included in the directive. You can find the appeal here.
31 October 2018
French Constitutional Council rejects ban on meaty names
Earlier in 2018, the French parliament adopted a new food law and thereby an amendment that would make it illegal to label vegetarian foods employing references to ‘meaty names’ such as “vegan bacon”, “vegan merguez” or “vegan sausage”. EVU and the Association Végétarienne de France (AVF) released a press statement, expressing their concern and critique for this backlash against consumer-friendly labelling for vegetarian and vegan food products.
Fortunately, on 25 October 2018, the French Constitutional Council has revoked the amendment that forbids meaty names. While this is to be welcomed and certainly a relief for French veggies, the reasoning behind the invalidation of this bill is more a procedural one. The amendment was supposed to contain regulation on healthy, sustainable and accessible food for all. The Council argued that a ban on meaty names for veggie products has nothing to do with this aim and is therefore out of place within this law.
EVU and AVF call on decision makers to leave it at that and refrain from making informed purchasing decisions much more complicated and difficult for consumers, by prohibiting product denominations that are helpful and useful for everyone.
For more information (in French) see this press release from EVU member AVF.
23 October 2018
European Vegetarian Union (EVU) comment on British study finding large amounts of salt in a variety of plant-based meat alternatives
More and more people choose processed vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives as an animal-friendly, sustainable and tasty option compared to the meaty equivalent. A British study now found large amounts of salt in a variety of meat-free alternatives, from which some even contain more salt per 100g than seawater. EVU puts the newly published study into context.
Some processed vegetarian and vegan alternatives do indeed contain large amounts of salt, but so do their ‘meaty’ equivalents – that is the result of a study published last year by the German Albert-Schweitzer-Stiftung (https://albert-schweitzer-stiftung.de/aktuell/fleischalternativen-im-test). Furthermore, the study showed that on average vegetarian and vegan processed foods are nutrition-physiologically actually more favourable than the non-veggie options. Reason being is the better content of protein, overall fat as well as saturated fat. Veggie-sausages and plant-based-burgers can therefore potentially be healthy alternatives to their meaty originals.
Nevertheless, EVU highlights the importance of a well-balanced and nutritious plant-based diet. Processed products such as meat alternatives should not constitute the majority of people’s diets. Due to the great variety of processed food available, EVU finds it inappropriate to make simplified health claims about a whole market sector and therefore encourages consumers to check the nutritious values of products before purchasing them.
EVU welcomes the growing availability of meat-free products but sees further potential in their nutrition-physiologically composition. Producing companies should not only consider a reduced amount of salt but also decreased overall and saturated fat levels. Meeting those requirements will make the occasional consumption of vegan and vegetarian meat alternatives even more joyful.
10 October 2018
IPCC publishes special report on global warming of 1,5°C
On 8 October, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report on global warming. It outlines how the impacts we currently face at 1°C of global warming, like extreme heat or rising water levels, will further develop if we do not manage to limit the increase of global temperature to 1,5°C. In order to stay well below the 2°C line, the IPCC report regards major transformations in sectors like energy or transport as mandatory. EVU especially welcomes the consideration of diets as a measure to mitigate climate change.
In December 2018, the report by the IPCC will serve as one of the major inputs at the COP24 in Katowice, Poland, where governments from all around the world will review the Paris Agreement in terms of its potential to countervail climate change. The Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 nations in 2015, aims to strengthen the global response to climate change by keeping the increase of global warming below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1,5°C.
EVU sees crucial evidence for the necessity of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the published report. Therefore, we highlight the impact dietary choices have on climate change and encourage everyone to consider plant-based options. Since animal agriculture is among the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emission, a shift towards plant-based diets has great potential for the mitigation of climate change.
Read the IPCC’s report on global warming here.
5 September 2018
German Food Code Commission decides on veggie guidelines
On 21 August 2018, the German Food Code Commission (DLMBK) unanimously agreed on guidelines for labelling vegan and vegetarian alternatives to products that are usually derived from animals. The adoption of these guidelines initiates the final phases of a process of discussions and disputes among stakeholders that have been going on for years.
In 2016, the DLMBK committed to working out detailed guidelines for veggie alternatives. To this end, an expert committee was established, which EVU’s German affiliate, ProVeg (formerly VEBU), joined as an external advisor. ProVeg had repeatedly been making it clear that restrictions on ‘meaty’ terms are not needed since consumers are not deceived by them. This repeated emphasis successfully ensured that common food denominations such as ‘vegetarian schnitzel’ or ‘vegan sausage’ remain allowed by the guidelines.
Yet, due to the strict confidentiality policy of the DLMBK, the content of the newly adopted guidelines is not yet clear. However, it is evident from earlier drafts that producers will have to prepare for major changes in their labelling practices when it comes to more specific food items such as ‘vegan salami’. Many stakeholders, including ProVeg, have criticised this secrecy along with the DLMBK’s intervention in a functioning market segment.
EVU will report on the guidelines once they are made public, which is likely to happen by the end of this year.
20 August 2018
EVU urges EU to shift diets and production away from animal products
The European Union is aiming at developing a long-term reduction strategy for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020. The strategy is supposed to be in line with the Paris Agreement and strengthen the vision of a low carbon economy that protects the planet and its people. Stakeholders have the opportunity to get involved in the development of the strategy by giving feedback to the European decision-makers. The EVU welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the EU climate policy.
The EVU encourages the EU Commission to introduce and prioritise the production and consumption of animal products within its climate policy. Animal agriculture is among the leading contributors to GHG emissions in the EU and worldwide. Furthermore, it aggravates climate change by destroying forests and other wildlands in order to provide fields for grazing and livestock feed crops production. The current extent of animal farming and the predominant diet within the EU, heavily relying on animal products, contradict the fulfilment of the Paris Agreement, especially when taking into account the production growth forecasts in the next decades.
The EVU, therefore, highlights the potential of plant-based diets for the GHG reduction strategy. Plant-based foods do not only produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to animal-based foods but also require significantly fewer resources. The EVU encourages the European decision-makers to implement policy strategies, which support a gradual societal dietary change.
Read the whole feedback statement here.
13 August 2018
Continuing quarrels over sales denominations for plant milk in the US
The dairy industry in the United States has made several attempts to call attention to the “problem” of plant-based drinks being marketed as, for example, soy milk. So far there is no law comparable to the prohibition of dairy sales denominations for products not obtained from the milking of an animal within EU Regulation 1308/2013 in the US, which makes food labelling for plant-based milks more consumer-friendly. According to foodnavigator-usa.com however, plant-based milk producers have been sued several times because of this practice. Up to now, judges found the argument of consumer deception about the origin of these products not convincing and dismissed the cases.
Currently, the dispute is reaching another level, as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempts to implement a new “compliance policy” surrounding plant-based milks. An FDA official stated that people might not be deceived about the origin of the milk, but rather about its composition. He claimed that consumers might expect the same nutritional profile from almond milk as from cow’s milk, which can cause health problems for children. Therefore, current sales denominations should be reconsidered.
The EVU has been reporting on the legal situation in the EU as a result of Regulation 1308/2013 and its remaining controversies that keep being discussed in national courts. The EVU has also been involved in rebutting attempts to ban “meaty” terms for vegan and vegetarian alternatives in the EU and hopes that the US will refrain from implementing similar rules that are not consumer-friendly. Since the health-related arguments seem to be based solely on individual cases and it is not reasonable to presume consumers would expect the same nutritional composition from rice milk as from cow’s milk, it appears to be yet another attempt at protecting the dairy industry.
8 August 2018
International law symposium on vegan rights 2018
EVU’s Public Affairs Officer Ronja Berthold gave a presentation at this year’s International Vegan Rights Alliance (IVRA) Conference in Glasgow. The conference, initiated three years ago and held annually, is an opportunity for animal charities and food awareness organisations to discuss and share experiences regarding legal issues surrounding plant-based diets. This time, topics included the EU’s principle of non-discrimination in relation to plant-based diets, the provision of plant-based meals in public canteens throughout different EU member states as well as worldwide individual legal cases covering various aspects of plant-based lifestyles.
The EVU presented developments regarding the legal definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” for the purpose of food labelling, where the European Commission has pledged to start working on the respective implementing act in 2019. Furthermore, Europe-wide political attempts to ban “meaty” terms for vegan and vegetarian alternatives were discussed and legal prerequisites in this field reconsidered.
The IVRA law symposium is a great opportunity for international exchange and support among various organisations to push for the implementation of vegan and vegetarian rights in daily life. More information on the conference can be found here.
France to privilege meat over reason
On 22 May 2018, the French Parliament will vote on a law that contains an amendment which would ban “meaty” sales denominations for vegan and vegetarian products. If approved, the law would make product names such as “vegan merguez” illegal, with infringement fines of up to 300.000€. The EVU and the French Vegetarian Society express their concern about these developments in the following press release.
The French version of the press release is available here.
4 May 2018
Ban on dairy denominations for plant-based products remains controversial
According to a press release by plant-based foods manufacturer “Alpro”, the Dutch Court of Appeal of ’s Hertogenbosch ruled in December 2017 that the company may label its products with terms like “alternative to milk” or “variation to dairy”. This shows that plant-based milk denomination is more complicated than the ECJ ruling of 2017 might suggest and that discussions around the topic are not concluded. As the press release depicts, the Dutch Court stated: “With Alpro, the court of appeal is of the opinion that usage of the word combination ‘(plant-based) variation to yoghurt’ … is not intended to use the reserved dairy denomination ‘yoghurt’ as a denomination or as an indication for the relevant soy products, but that it is intended to express that its soy products constitute a plant-based alternative to the dairy product ‘yoghurt’”. Consequently, it does not view this kind of food labelling as contradictory to EU law, specifically to EU regulation 1308/2013, which states that “‘Milk’ means exclusively the normal mammary secretion obtained from one or more milkings without either addition thereto or extraction therefrom.”
The ECJ ruling of 2017, pointing out that denominations such as “tofu butter” are contradictory to the protection of dairy terms under EU law, has shown that banning these terms for plant-based products is not a question of practicality and consumer orientation, but rather one of catering to the dairy industry. It is the EVU’s position that “milky names” on plant-based milk alternatives convey important information on what consumers can expect from a product. Hence, they guide consumer purchase decisions in a useful and straightforward way. Furthermore, producers of plant-based alternatives typically communicate the vegetarian or vegan characteristic clearly on the packaging as it is a sales argument and in everybody’s interest to clarify the difference.
As it was foreseen last year, the ECJ ruling has triggered an important discussion and it is likely that there will be more cases like “Alpro’s” in the Netherlands in the future.
24 April 2018
EVU publishes position paper on traces of animal substances
Sporadically, the existence of traces of animal substances in food products labelled as vegan or vegetarian is considered to be problematic. The EVU provides a detailed position on this topic. Download position paper on traces (pdf).
23 April 2018
EVU comments once more on legal professional discourse surrounding veggie labelling
The European Food and Feed Law Review is a bimonthly professional journal dedicated to legal issues in the European Food Sector. Its latest issue features an article on the topics of the definition of the terms ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ and sales denominations for veggie products as well as latest political developments in the field, written by EVU’s Public Affairs’ manager Felix Domke.
Take a look at the current issue here.
23 March 2018
EVU’s contribution to “A protein plan for Europe”
The European Commission is planning to publish “A protein plan for Europe”, a policy plan for the future development of protein within the EU, at the end of this year. The report will assess “the state of play and possible future measures” concerning protein crops in Europe. As a way to consult the public, it recently set up a stakeholder survey. The EVU took the opportunity to submit its answers to questions surrounding different protein crops, the market situation for protein plants and fields of improvement.
In doing so, the EVU advised European politics to put a focus on shifting away from animal-based products towards plant-based protein as the main protein source. This would have a positive effect on health and environment, as animal products are firstly linked to a number of non-communicable diseases and secondly produce the highest greenhouse gas emissions among all food commodities. Furthermore, food and water waste can be reduced if protein plants are directly used for human consumption instead of animal feed. The energy conversion from protein plant to protein from animal foodstuffs is inefficient compared to a direct conversion of plant protein to caloric energy for humans in the form of plant-based foods.
The EVU will keep track of the outcome of the survey as well as the report and the Commission’s future “protein plan for Europe” and will keep pointing towards negative impacts in relation to a focus on animal-based protein.
The survey answers can be found here.
Grand Coalition in Germany pledges to advocate for European veggie definition
Negotiations for a new coalition treaty between Social and Christian Democrats in Germany came to an end yesterday. A first draft of the treaty shows that the German government is speaking up for a European legal definition of the terms vegan and vegetarian. It is written in there: “At European level, we aim to establish legally binding criteria for the labelling of vegetarian and vegan foodstuffs.”
During his last term in office, Federal Minister for Agriculture and Food, Christian Schmidt, already took action and approached the responsible European Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. In a letter, he asked the Commissioner to issue the implementing act needed for veggie labelling criteria. With the latest commitment expressed in the coalition treaty draft, the German government sends another strong signal to the European Executive.
EVU Public Affairs is currently in dialogue with Member State organisations to urge their governments to take similar action. Joint efforts with voices from several Member States will help to keep up the pressure on the Commission, which stated it will pick up work on the issue in 2019 but will face Brexit, EP elections and a new College of Commissioners that year.
More information on the issue of a definition for the terms vegan and vegetarian can be found here.
15 January 2018
Tesco launches own vegan product range – labelling should be considered
The UK’s biggest food retailers Tesco and Sainsbury’s have launched their own vegan product range “The Wicked Kitchen”. The new plant-based convenience products are now sold in over 600 supermarkets in the UK and consist of sandwiches, wraps, bowls, salads and pizzas.
According to Tesco, the introduction of these products is a direct response to the rising demand for plant-based meat alternatives and ready-to-eat meals, especially among flexitarians and reducetarians. Unfortunately, the front of the products’ packaging does not indicate their vegan content. On foodnavigator.com the EVU recommends clearly visible labelling of foods suitable for vegans or vegetarians, in order to make it easier for shoppers to find plant-based alternatives and normalise plant-based lifestyles.
2018 Commission Work Programme – Vegetarian labelling set on track
Europe-wide criteria for definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” for food labelling will become law in 2020. This is the very tangible outcome that is now in sight after the European Commission published its work programme for the upcoming year. European consumers of vegan and vegetarian foods as well as their suppliers in production and retail will be able to rely on one set of rules for plant-based food. This will improve the positions of all parties involved in the food chain. The commitment of the EU-Executive is now on record and paves the way for a crucial piece of ‘vegetarian law’.
Read the full press release here.
20 October 2017
Belgium now has two food pyramids. The Flemish Institute for Healthy Life “Gezond Leven” developed a new food pyramid that places processed meat outside of it – which means you don’t need any of it.
The new pyramid features some exciting changes, e.g. processed meat is no longer in it. Instead, it is placed outside of it in a small circle, together with alcoholic beverages, fast food, salty snacks, sugary beverages and sweets. This category is meant for products that you absolutely don’t need in your diet. Besides that, the pyramid is inverted, which means it displays the products consumers should consume the most of at the top, the least of at the bottom. Unprocessed meat is at the bottom, together with processed foods rich in trans-fatty acids, such as butter. Fruits and vegetables are at the very top.
For more information check here.
“Vegan Schnitzel” stays “vegan Schnitzel”. Big loss for German Federal Minister Schmidt
Despite calls by the German Food Minister and national farmers’ and butchers’ associations, a ban on “vegan schnitzel” and “vegetarian bratwurst” in Germany is unlikely to happen. The German Food Code Commission has submitted a draft for feedback which allows the use of certain “meaty names” on vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives. EVU’s German affiliate ProVeg (former VEBU) was part of the Commission’s negotiations and worked hard to bring about consumer-friendly labelling.
Read the full press release here.
The Guardian: the Swedish farmer using oats to make milk
“After the first year of producing oats [for oat milk instead of oats for animal feed] Arnesson’s farm was producing double the amount of calories for human consumption per hectare and had halved the climate impact of each calorie produced.”
Read the full article here.
27 July 2017
EVU suggests revising archaic elements in the light of pending evaluation of Common Market Organisation (CMO)
The European Commission currently invites stakeholders to provide feedback on the scope of a pending evaluation of marketing standards set in the Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 on the Common Market Organisation for agricultural products. As this regulation specifies that plant-based alternatives to milk may not bear “dairy” sales denominations, the EVU has criticised these outdated elements, especially in the light of the recent judgement by the European Court of Justice (see below).
Specifically, the EVU suggests assessing whether rules on product denominations in the CMO are still warranted in the light of evolving consumer perceptions and changing dietary behaviours, with regard to growing food sectors which deserve similar consideration as the dairy industry and with a view to establishing more cohesion in EU food information law.
The EVU’s full statement can be found here.
Today’s verdict by the ECJ has little to do with consumer protection. The court has made it clear that the regulation under discussion is first and foremost motivated by economic concerns. Furthermore, the court’s strict interpretation of the regulation contradicts consumer perception and everyday language. The EVU does not think today’s ruling has been a decision on whether terms like “milk” and “cheese” are misleading for labelling vegetarian products. Instead, it has shown that the existing regulation has to be discussed in the future.
The court’s decision is regrettable but comes as no surprise given the strict wording of the regulation. Plant-based alternatives to milk products have been on the market for many years. As many of them have been developed and produced specifically to resemble the “originals”, they should be allowed to be marketed under similar sales denominations. It is the EVU’s position that “milky names” on plant-based milk alternatives convey important information on what consumers can expect from a product. Hence, they guide consumer purchase decisions in a useful and straightforward way. Furthermore, the vegetarian or vegan characteristic is communicated clearly, as it is in everybody’s interest to clarify the difference.
Last but not least, the EVU think today’s decision has triggered an important discussion which we will continue in the future.
CLITRAVI calls for ban on “meaty names” for labelling veggie products & EVU approaching joint position on vegetarian definitions together with European food industry
As FoodNavigator reports, CLITRAVI, the association that represents the European processed meat industry, urges the Commission to ban vegetarian products from using meat names. However, there are differing interpretations concerning the possible legal basis (article 36.3[b] in the Food Information to Consumers [FIC] regulation): The EVU and many others take the view that the article covers only a call for the pending legally-binding definition of vegetarian and vegan foods.
The Commission appears to share this position and has made it clear that it does not intend to act on this issue, according to Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis (further information here and here).
Regarding the definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” for the purpose of food labelling, the EVU closes in on a joint position with FoodDrinkEurope, the umbrella organisation of the European food industry. Remaining differences are currently discussed.
EVU becomes an EFSA Registered Stakeholder
The EVU applied to be a Registered Stakeholder at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in order to contribute to its activities. EFSA is the agency of the European Union that provides scientific advice and communicates on existing and emerging risks associated with the food chain. The work of EFSA covers all matters related to food and feed safety, including animal health and welfare, and nutrition.
More information can be found on EFSA’s website
EVU publishes new position paper: Sales Denominations of Vegetarian Meat Alternatives
As many vegetarian alternatives to meat products have been developed and produced specifically to resemble the “originals”, they are marketed under similar sales denominations, such as “vegan sausage”. Recently, as sales figures have been booming, this has been met with criticism by certain stakeholders.
It is the EVU’s position that “meaty names” on vegetarian meat alternatives convey important information on what consumers can expect of a product. Hence, they guide consumers’ purchase decisions in a useful and straightforward way.
The complete position paper can be found here.
Portuguese parliament approves law that makes mandatory the availability of a vegan option in all state canteens
The proposal was inspired by a petition initiated by the Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa, gathering over 15,000 signatures, and put forward by animal rights party PAN. According to news articles, the law states that the new menu option mustn’t contain any animal products.
“Supermarket makeover” to cut meat consumption
As The Guardian reports, British shoppers are to become subject of an interesting experiment aimed at making them cut their meat consumption in order to improve human health in a world going through profound climate change. The project, in which Sainsbury’s is one of the key collaborators, will see supermarkets redesigned.
“Proposals include: placing vegetarian alternatives on the same shelves as meat products; giving vouchers and loyalty points to shoppers who choose vegetarian products; and providing recipes and leaflets that outline how shoppers can eat less meat”.
Efforts to take certain steps to get people to eat more vegetarian foods comes in the wake of a study, published by Oxford University scientists in April 2016 (see EVU news below), which concluded that eating fewer animal products could reduce global mortality and cut greenhouse gas emissions substantially.
EVU provides working translations of its proposed definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” for food labelling
The EVU starts its political work in 2017 by publishing translations of its proposed definition into several official languages of the European Union (including Dutch, French and Spanish) with more to come. The translations will be used for approaching the European Commission and stressing the need for a legal definition. For the past five years and despite a clear mandate for action stipulated in the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC), the Commission has remained inactive.
The EVU invites you to spread and use the translations.
The translations can be found here.
Veggie definition: 5 years of inactivity by the European Commission
“5 years ago, the EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC) stipulated that the European Commission is to issue an implementing act defining requirements for information related to the suitability of a food for vegetarians and vegans”, says Till Strecker, the European Vegetarian Union’s (EVU) Public Affairs Manager. Despite growing pressure from politicians, consumer organisations, and the food industry, the Commission has failed to act upon this responsibility in the past five years.
Find the recent EVU information and EVU’s position paper here.
Updated EVU position paper on Novel Foods
As the legislative procedure concerning the modernisation of the European Regulation on Novel Foods is concluded, the EVU has published an updated position paper.
The EVU welcomes the new Regulation as a necessary and timely measure for bringing more numerous and more varied plant-based foods to the European market and to the consumer’s plate.
The EVU expresses the hope that the market entry threshold for developers and importers of novel vegetarian and vegan foods is lowered compared to the situation set to prevail until 2018. Furthermore, the EVU offers its expertise and hopes to be included in the circle of stakeholders consulted for the implementation.
$1.25 Trillion investor coalition urges multinational companies to move away from animal-based proteins
A coalition of 40 institutional investors has launched an engagement with 16 multinational food companies (including Kraft Heinz, Nestle and Unilever) highlighting the material risks posed by industrial animal production. The coalition urges companies to set strategies to diversify into plant-based sources of protein.
The investors warn of the risks associated with the growing global demand for protein and an overreliance on the unsustainable factory farming of livestock for its supply. They highlight the environmental, social and public health risks inherent in this model, which financial markets are not currently valuing appropriately.
Jeremy Coller, the founder of the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) Initiative, that has brought together the coalition, said:
“The world’s overreliance on factory farmed livestock to feed the growing global demand for protein is a recipe for a financial, social and environmental crisis. Intensive livestock production already has levels of emissions and pollution that are too high, and standards of safety and welfare that are too low. It simply can’t cope with the projected increase in global protein demand. Investors want to know if major food companies have a strategy to avoid this protein bubble and to profit from a plant-based protein market”.
Together with ShareAction, FAIRR has published a new briefing entitled “The future of food – the investment case for a protein shake up”.
Read FAIRR’s press release here.
UN expert calls for tax on meat production
Prof Maarten Hajer, the lead author of a recently published UN-report, has stated that governments “should tax meat production in order to stem the global rise in consumption and the environmental damage that goes with it”, according to the Guardian.
As global consumption is projected to rise significantly over the next 10 years (20 per cent rise in chicken and dairy consumption, 14 per cent in pig and beef), people have to be deterred from eating meat by increasing its price. According to Hajer, “our current food system has to change because it’s not sustainable”.
Big companies identify appetite for plant-based milk
Financial Times has published an interesting article on the boom of plant-based milk products, featuring many facts and figures.
As per capita consumption of milk has dropped 4.1 per cent in Europe over the past five years and even stronger in the US (13 per cent), worldwide sales of non-dairy milk alternatives more than doubled between 2009 and 2015, according to Euromonitor. The market has grown to a sales volume of $21 bn.
As a new development, “big global beverage food and drinks companies that traditionally have not been dairy focused are also entering the market as they seek to diversify away from fizzy drinks”. Names include Coca Cola, Unilever and Danone.
While serving the same needs, plant-based milk has an ecological advantage over animal’s milk. Furthermore, more and more consumers choose plant-based alternatives due to obvious concerns over issues such as animal welfare and antibiotic use.
China plans to cut meat consumption by 50 per cent
The Guardian reports that new dietary guidelines recently published by the Chinese government outline a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50 per cent. The measures, designed to improve public health, have been cheered by climate campaigners as a major step to tackle climate change.
Furthermore, it is perceived as an important leadership step. Last year, the Chatham House Institute has stated in a groundbreaking study that as the general public is unaware of the issue and unlikely to change consumption patterns, governments must lead in shifting attitudes and behaviour.
As China became a global economic power, the country’s meat consumption has skyrocketed from 13 kg of meat per person/year in 1982 to 63 kg today. This trend is expected to continue. Animal farming is responsible for 14.5 per cent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (latest FAO figures) and is, therefore, one of the key drivers of climate change.
Read the in-depth article here.
Expert group proposes new global food waste standard – ignores food loss due to animal farming
A group of specialist institutions including the FAO has issued a report, proposing a universal standard to measure food waste and setting definitions and measurement requirements.
“The amount of food lost or wasted translates into about a quarter of all water used by agriculture, requires cropland equivalent an area the size of China, and is responsible for an estimated 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emission“
However, EVU highlights that even though the report aims at cutting food waste, it fails to recognise that over one-third of global crop calories are used as animal feedstuff. Inefficient conversion into animal protein means that enormous amounts of agricultural produce are lost in the course of the production of animal products. Therefore, shifting production patterns and diets is key for cutting food waste and should be recognised by stakeholders.
Read the study here.
Politico EU policy newsletter features German breakthrough
EVU’s Till Strecker talked to “Politico Morning Agri & Food”, the main source for EU food policy updates, about Germany’s new
de facto vegetarian labelling rules.
Read it here (“Germany leads way on vegetarian food labelling”).
FoodNavigator features article on Germany’s definition breakthrough
FoodNavigator covers the recent German development concerning the definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”
for food labelling and EVU’s efforts in detail.
Read the full article here.
Vegetarian Food labelling breakthrough: Updates & Information
As mentioned before, the consumer protection ministers of the German Länder unanimously voted in favour of a proposal for a legally binding definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”.
The EVU is positive that this will send a strong signal to the European Commission in order to fulfil its obligation to adopt an implementing act on legally binding definitions as stated in the Food Information Regulation.
Find more information and an updated position paper here.
Commission will prosecute Germany for water pollution
EurActiv reports that the European Commission will prosecute Germany “for failing to take effective measures against water pollution caused by nitrates”. Despite worsening pollution in surface waters and groundwater and earlier warnings, Brussels has stated that Germany did not take sufficient measures “to effectively address nitrates pollution and revise its relevant legislation to comply with the EU rules”.
The main source of nitrate, predominantly used for fertilization, is intensive livestock farming.
Read the Commissions’ press release here.
2 May 2016
Google names “plants to replace meat” as one of the most important tech trends
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent, Alphabet, has laid out several game-changing technologies that have the potential to change the world. Among them, he named synthetic food from plant proteins that communities could use to replace meat.
“Replacing livestock with growing and harvesting plants could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change”, he argued. Furthermore, as meat production is costly and inefficient, cost of foods could be lowered in developing countries.
Find tech trends here.
Denmark is considering to tax meat to help combat climate change
Denmark currently discusses taxing meat in order to reduce consumers’ meat consumption. Initially, there would be a tax on beef, subsequently extended to all meats, varying according to their contribution to climate change.
Interestingly, the Danish Council of Ethic’s spokesperson Mickey Gjerris stated that as relying on consumers to change their own consumption “will not be effective”, regulation will be required.
Animal farming is responsible for 14.5 – 18 per cent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (FAO figures) and is, therefore, one of the key drivers of climate change.
Vegetarian Food Labelling: Breakthrough in Germany
The consumer protection ministers of the German Länder unanimously voted in favour of a proposal for a legally binding definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”. At their meeting in Düsseldorf, the ministers backed a formula which had been consensually developed by a working group of the Länder, the German food industry and the EVU’s German affiliate VEBU.
Whilst the decided definition is meant to be implemented at the European level, the consumer protection ministers put it into effect for the food control authorities of their jurisdictions.
The EVU expects this decision to send a strong signal to the European Commission to fulfil its obligation to adopt an implementing act on voluntary labelling of vegan and vegetarian food according to the Food Information Regulation 1169/2011.
23 April 2016
1st International Law Symposium on Vegan Rights
On 23rd of April 2016, Germany’s VEBU und and International Vegan Rights Alliance presented the 1st International Law Symposium on the Right to a plant-based diet. This pioneering event brought lawyers and experts from different countries together in Berlin to share knowledge and discuss ways to progress the campaign for the right to a vegan diet.
The group issued a concluding declaration, available here.
12 April 2016
Scientists at Oxford University have tried to quantify the potential health and environmental benefits of a global shift towards more plant-based diets. They found that vegetarian diets could save millions of lives. Even a transition in line with standard dietary guidelines already could reduce global mortality by 6-10 % and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70 % compared with a reference scenario in 2050.
“Our study provides a comparative analysis of the health and climate change benefits of global dietary changes for all major world regions. We project that health and climate change benefits will both be greater the lower the fraction of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”
Read the full study here.
Eurobarometer on Animal Welfare ignores potential of vegetarian products
The statistical agency of the European Commission, EUROSTAT, has published a Special Eurobarometer on the “Attitudes of Europeans towards Animal Welfare”.
The report shows some encouraging results. It reveals that an overwhelming majority of European citizens demands better welfare standards for farmed animals as well as for companion animals. About 90 per cent think that imported animal products should fulfil the same requirements with regard to animal welfare as products from within the EU. This is an important hint to policymakers in Europe and the Member States. They need to take this clear demand into consideration when negotiating international trade agreements etc.
However, the report fails to see the immense animal welfare potentials of vegetarian products. Plant-based foodstuffs are always more animal-friendly than their animal-based counterparts. Vegetarian lifestyles – from meat-reduced flexitarianism to veganism –provide the opportunity to improve animal welfare without cutbacks on taste and enjoyment of food. Plant-based foods are also more environmentally friendly.
In future surveys on animal welfare, this perspective needs to be taken into account and plant-based alternatives to animal products and vegetarian lifestyles need to be included in the questionnaires. Policy plans in general, as well as statistical reports on animal welfare, are incomplete without reference to vegetarian lifestyles and their potentials.
Read the full report here.
15 March 2016
EU healthy eating funding discriminates against plant proteins, ENSA says
As the European Union is currently merging today’s separate EU school milk and fruit schemes and boosting their combined annual budget by 20 million to 250 million a year, the European Natural Soy and Plant-Based Foods Manufacturers Association (ENSA) complains that the scheme excludes products that are as nutritious as dairy and serve the same needs, namely plant-based proteins.
For years, the EVU has voiced that the scheme, designed to improve the health of young Europeans, leaves many pupils behind and has called for inclusion of plant milk. Furthermore, plant-based milk has an ecological advantage over cow’s milk. Download EVU’s position paper here.
What is vegetarian? EVU comments on legal professional discourse
In its current issue, the leading European food law magazine European Food and Feed Law Review features an article written by EVU’s Public Affairs’ manager Till Strecker on the topic of defining the terms vegan and vegetarian, legal situation and latest political developments.
Take a look at the current issue here.
16 February 2016
EurActiv has published a video that highlights the fact that meat production is the most significant contributor to agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. In 2012, agriculture accounted for 10 per cent of total emissions. “Experts say that if Europe were to cut its meat and dairy intake by half, net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would decrease by 42%”. The video states that even though the European Commission is working on reducing agricultural emissions, changing consumption patterns is not on the agenda.
The connection between meat consumption and global warming is clearly acknowledged by the video that was even co-financed by the European Commission. Ironically, the video states that “changing consumption patterns is not currently on Europe’s agenda, but the Commission is working on reducing the impact of agriculture on global warming”. Unambitiously, this is done by shifting 30 per cent of the Common Agriculture Policy’s direct payments towards “green farming practices that focus on biodiversity, water and soil quality and capturing carbon”. The mismatch between livestock’s impact on global warming and the lack of action to tackle this urgent problem is obvious.
Immediate actions must be taken to shift consumption patterns.
Watch the video here.
Europe’s climate change goals ‘need profound lifestyle changes’
According to a leaked European Commission document obtained by the Guardian, EU member states should prepare for a far-reaching debate on how to limit global warming to 1,5°C. Slamming the brakes on climate change will require exploring possibilities for “profound lifestyle changes of current generations”.
Considering the fact that 14.5 per cent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions originates from livestock farming, it is clear that reducing global consumption of animal products will be crucial for mitigating the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Read the full article here.
25 January 2016
EurActiv, the leading online media on EU affairs, states: “Carbon emissions from agriculture have doubled in just five years, mainly due to increases in livestock breeding and the methane these animals emit”. Agriculture’s carbon footprint has exploded – however, this has not triggered any meaningful regulatory response from the EU. Recently, the EU decided not to limit enteric methane emissions from livestock farming. The current EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), due to be reformed in 2020, largely ignores the threat posed by emissions from the livestock farming sector.
Read the full article here.
13 January 2016
By 2050, the world’s population will likely increase by 35%. To feed that population, crop production will need to double. What can we do to feed the growing population and protect the environment at the same time? In this video, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations answers the question. 36% of global crop calories are used as animal feedstuff. A change in diets is much-needed.
05 December 2015
Initiated by several members of the EP, 110 participants joined a movie screening of “Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret” in the EP this week. Cowspiracy is a documentary following filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the devastating ecological effects of animal agriculture. Among other speakers, EVU’s vice-president Felix Hnat gave input by conducting a presentation on the much-needed vegan trend and participated in the ensuing debate.
See the trailer here.
24 November 2015
“Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption” – a new report published by the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs finds that reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below a dangerous level. Even though global appetite for meat is a major driver of climate change, meat remains largely off the policy agenda. As public awareness of the issue is low, the report states that governments must lead to shifting attitudes and behaviour.
Read the full report including findings, analyses and recommendations here.
20 November 2015
This week, EVU’s Public Affairs Manager Till Strecker was invited as a guest to a discussion at FoodDrinkEurope’s expert group meeting on food information to consumers. During the constructive debate, several questions concerning EVU’s proposal for definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” were discussed. EVU appreciated the interest in the topic and is confident that in further discussions, a reasonable solution that incorporates the interests of consumers, industry and retailers will be found.
FoodDrinkEurope is the leading food industry confederation in the European Union.
26 October 2015
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), has officially classified processed meats (such as bacon, ham and sausages) as carcinogenic, hence increasing the risk of certain forms of cancer. Based on a meta-review of more than 800 studies, the experts found convincing evidence that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of bowel cancer by 18%. Furthermore, red meat was declared as probably carcinogenic. IARC’s classification refers to the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer.
Further information can be found here (IARC press release).
13 October 2015
Currently, a reform of the regulation on organic farming is underway. In its vote on the reform proposal, the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament (COMAGRI) has endorsed amendments extending the organic farming proposal mentioning lithothamne algae. If passed in the continuing legislative procedure, the law would expressly provide that “algae, including seaweed and lithothamne” may be used in the processing of organic food. Lithothamne algae is commonly added to milk alternatives due to its high content of calcium. In the past, there has been a legal challenge debating the question of whether lithothamne may be used in organic food. As a result, producers face uncertainty whether milk alternatives with increased calcium content can be labelled organic, an issue that can be regarded as a competitive disadvantage.
The EVU will closely observe the ongoing trilogue discussions and try to increase awareness. Find more information here.
25 September 2015
To date, there is no legally binding definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”, which makes food labelling of veggie products difficult. As the number of vegans, vegetarians and people who turn to more plant-based lifestyles is steadily increasing, the EVU urges the European Commission to follow its obligation and issue a definition.
Find more information and the updated position paper here.
23 September 2015
Sustainable food and animal protection NGOs join forces this Tuesday with Members of the EP to urge the European Commission to develop a strategy towards a sustainable food and farming system in the EU. Humane Society International in collaboration with Compassion in world farming, Food for life and EP’s Sustainable Food Systems Group offer a lunch free from animal products, additives and GMOs. The alliance highlights that current levels of meat consumption are completely unsustainable. “For the sake of animal welfare, the environment and our own health and well-being, it is essential that we do not delay in taking steps to moderate our consumption of animal products” (Dr Joanna Swabe, executive director of HSI/Europe).
When? 29 September 2015, 12:00 – 14:30.
Where? On the Esplanade of the European Parliament, Brussels.
Further information can be found here.
21 June 2013
Millions of Europeans adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Far more are reducing their intake of animal products. Surprisingly, no precise statistics on numbers, motivations and market shares of vegetarian/vegan products are available. Initiated by the EVU, MEP Ismail Ertug (Social Democrat) has asked the Commission if aspects of vegetarian diets and the market for vegetarian products will be surveyed by Eurostat or other adequate authorities in order to obtain reliable figures. However, The Commission has responded by stating that there are no plans to prioritise this issue.
Clearly, data on vegetarianism/veganism would be of great interest and relevance to the vegetarian movement, national and local governments, to the food and catering industry as well as to social and health sciences.