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According to this article, the European commission spent 252 million over four years to promote meat and dairy products.

The majority of research shows that there are a lot of benefits to less meat consumption. The alternatives are often more cost efficient to produce, and more environment friendly.

It seems to go against some of goals of the European Union:

  • protect and improve the quality of the environment
  • promote peace, its values and the well-being of its citizens

What are the European commissions reasons for promoting meat consumption?

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    I downvoted because the premise of the benefits of less meat consumption are highly speculative and generally pushed by special interests.
    – deep64blue
    Mar 30, 2022 at 14:41
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    @JoeW & AlanDev-boycottRussia , I have added a link to sources showing the downside of livestock vs plants. Could you supply me with some counter sources, so I can also add these to my question (I could not find any, but I might be in a bubble). Mar 30, 2022 at 15:09
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    -1 for "lot of benefits to less meat consumption" => I'm vegetarian but still think that those claims are tenuous at best Mar 30, 2022 at 18:09
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    @JoeW I can see where you are coming from with the text of the question, but unless the EU are spending money advertising plant based alternatives to meat as well then it is pretty clearly promoting one option and not another. And honestly it is not like meat needs promoting. Are there really people out there that haven't come across it yet? So at the very least the points Fizz raised about the meat lobby and embedded current practices seem valid.
    – Jontia
    Mar 30, 2022 at 18:44
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    @Trilarion Question might be better without the claim that plants are healthier. The other two points (cost en environment impact) seem to be less debated and still good reasons why eu shouldn't promote meat Mar 31, 2022 at 13:07

2 Answers 2

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The EU has an extensive farming support framework called the CAP. It subsidizes lots of things, healthy or not.

First, to your claim.

Moderate meat consumption is not necessarily all that bad for people's health. Like it or not, humans evolved as omnivores and diets without animal products of any kind need careful tuning to cover all our needs (in parts of the world where this practice is not traditional).

If we put a filter on health, lots of things are overeaten. Sugar for example, no need to single out meat. Probably the only under-eaten foods are the healthier food groups like fruits and vegetables. So, spinach and broccoli-only subsidies?

Meat dishes are an important of many European cultures' culinary heritage (which doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be subsidized).

However, meat consumption, especially of beef/ruminants have a heavy CO2-equivalent footprint associated with them.

On to the CAP itself. It doesn't draw the line at just meat. Sugar gets subsidized. Wine producers. Heck, even tobacco farmers.

The EU subsidized farmers for years, whether it needed what they produced or not. It was famous for butter mountains and wine lakes, but has since somewhat shifted to direct farmer support rather than volume-based subsidies/guaranteed prices.

Support to promote or market specific goods is another facet of the EU's complex and evolving mechanisms to support farmers and is somewhat better than the even more distorting effects of guaranteed prices.

In the past, EU subsidized beef got dumped on the world market, especially Africa, hurting local producers. The dumping been stopped - with some/all export subsidies getting withdrawn, but EU meat exports are still distorting things in Africa.

Even now, much of the CAP subsidies favor larger producers, rather than the much-romanticized "family farm" (guaranteed-price subsidies tended to make this even worse).

Bottom line: there are many bizarre and unwanted side-effects from the CAP, promoting meat is only one of them.

Past strategic concerns like food security, or even land management, the CAP, like equivalent programs in other wealthy countries (Canada, USA, Japan, etc...) is big business, politically. That's a lot of sweet, sweet, pork going out to favored special interest groups and farmers are about as politically influential as special interest groups get.

It's big political horse-trading intra-EU, with certain countries specialized in trying to get the overall EU to pay out the most they can get for their national farmers (cough, France, cough).

Much of it makes little sense, medically, environmentally and most of all taxpayer-wise. Targeting only meat might make this question sound a tad preachy to some, at least if you are as cynical about farming subsidies as I am.


p.s. on the health and environment side:

CO2-wise, not all meat is equal. Chicken and pork are lowest, sitting at 5-10x less than beef. You don't have to go vegetarian/vegan, but meat is a surprisingly large component of emissions, easily 2-4 tons (out of 15 for North Americans). Taking 30%-50% off most people's diet will have an immediate effect and is likely good for your health too.

Health-wise, maybe consider changing your eating habits, rather than substituting via the new-fangled meat substitutes. They are not "food your grandmother knew", have a long list of ingredients and really don't seem all that healthy. I like Impossible Burgers, for example, but their salt content is pretty shocking.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – CDJB
    Mar 31, 2022 at 8:23
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EU has many meat and diary product producers who need to sell their produce (I mean especially farmers, rather than big corporations). We are talking here about millions of jobs. This reflects on the well-being of the European citizens more significantly, than the health and environmental improvements resulting from not consuming these products.

The majority of research shows that their are a lot of benefits to less meat consumption.
The alternatives are often healthier, cheaper, and more environment friendly.

These are highly disputable points. Although many people and some scientists do believe this to be the case, it is far from scientific consensus (please provide the relevant references, if I am wrong.)

See:
Animal products in the EU
EU agricultural outlook 2021-31: consumer behaviour to influence meat and dairy markets

Farmers and the agricultural labour force - statistics:

People working in agriculture accounted for about 4.2 % of total employment in the EU in 2016 (see Figure 1), corresponding to 9.7 million persons. Agriculture is a particularly big employer in Romania, accounting for just less than one in every four persons (23.0 %) employed in the country, as well as in Bulgaria (17.5 % of total employment), Greece (10.7 %) and Poland (10.1 %). enter image description here

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    The contribution of meat production, particularly raising of ruminants, to global warming is well recognised. To provide a reference for lack of dispute is hard, but the IPCC report states with high confidence that balanced diets featuring plant-based food "present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health" as well as much more. Your economic points are good.
    – User65535
    Mar 30, 2022 at 14:45
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    @User65535 You'd have to point me the specific palce in this report. I am afraid that the effect is either non-existent or small - scientifically speaking. The formulation that you quote is too vague to be a basis for real policy, unlike the numbers on beef and dairy products. FYI: I am not disputing what you say, just trying to reason rigorously. Mar 30, 2022 at 15:00
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    I'm sure many people get paid lots of money to make cigarettes. Should the EU promote smoking cigarettes? Mar 30, 2022 at 15:18
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    @user253751 good example - indeed, in the case of cigarettes one can demonstrate their negative effects by multiple scientific studies and statistics - the negative effects of meat and dairy consumption are less tangible. I am sure though that reduction in tabacco consumption had devastating effects in some third world countries. Mar 30, 2022 at 16:04
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    I'm not an expert either, so I couldn't vouch for single percentage points. I suspect the difference lies in methodology: The IPCC figures include carbon sink effects enabled by reforesting areas no longer needed for agriculture, while the FAO numbers only count present emissions, not the reduction potential that land could have if reforested (for further details, please check the source I provided - a stack exchange comment is too short to express nuance, I'm afraid). Also, the FAO source is 9 years old, the baseline may have changed since.
    – meriton
    Mar 31, 2022 at 9:58

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