An EU subsidy for meat-related advertising has been making headlines recently. It is claimed that such a subsidy is contrary to the Dutch government’s policy of supporting initiatives that encourage the consumer to choose alternatives to meat more often. Now, one Dutch producer of vegetarian ‘meat’ is challenging the industry by putting itself forward as a candidate for the subsidy.
Earlier this month, people across the Netherlands were ditching meat for a week during Nationale Week Zonder Vlees. This is an annual event which aims to encourage people to switch to a vegetable-based diet, not only promoting healthy eating but also reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and water use. According to the organisation behind the initiative, every adult that ditches meat for the week will save 770 grams of animal meat and 130 litres of water. Starting little by little is a great approach and – who knows – perhaps the experience of taking part in a nationwide event like this could inspire individuals to undergo a more regular dietary shift or even a complete change of lifestyle to take the plunge and switch to being 100% vegetarian – or even vegan. Some would say the latter does require more effort and perhaps a longer period of adjustment, but drastic action would be required to be beneficial for the planet.
Decline in meat consumption
Europeans are among the largest consumers of meat in the world (responsible for 16% of the global meat consumption according to the 2018 OECD-FAO report), even though Europe has also seen a significant rise in the numbers of people refraining from eating meat and adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet in recent years. The impact of agricultural and dairy production on the environment is a key issue. Consumers are more conscious of their dietary choices, not only from health and ethical perspectives, but also environmental.
The dietary shift has also seen a response in the market to consumer demands, with a sharp rise in the availablity of vegan meat substitutes, including soy-based products and textured vegetable protein, as well as the wheat-based meat substitute seitan. The global meat-substitute market’s net worth is expected to be almost €6 million by 2022, with Germany leading the way in recent years in terms of new product launches in this market (see visual).
The consequential effects of animal agriculture on the planet is a key issue (see visual) and one that the EU policy makers must take into focus when it comes to meeting environmental targets.
Yet, according to a 2019 Greenpeace study, what the EU says is actually contradictory to the actions it takes; the study found ‘that 18–20% of the whole EU budget goes to livestock producers or to producers of fodder for animals, begging questions over its environmental commitment’.
[Source: VOXEUROP | EDJNet]
Giving veggie ‘meat’ a chance
The topic of EU policy in this area has come to light recently in relation to EU subsidies for meat-related advertising. In February, the animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier published a research report highlighting that the €200m subsidy from the EU for meat advertising in the ‘promotion of agricultural products’ is at odds with Dutch policy to discourage meat consumption. This subsidy would suggest the EU is aiming to stimulate meat consumption, whereas the policy of the Dutch government is to support initiatives that encourage the consumer to reduce meat consumption and choose alternatives to meat more often.
[Source: Wakker Dier]
Though, there has been a recent twist in this tale, and it is yet to be seen whether a meat substitute could be in line a candidate for this EU subsidy. Earlier this month, a campaign from De Vegetarische Slager was launched that seeks to get a portion of the funding for its climate-friendly vegetarian meat. The company has registered its application with the EU. Whether this is to be successful, we will just have to wait and see.
Do you see a vegan future?
If you are still wondering how veganism could change the world, why not take a look at a 2018 video below which offers an interesting perspective, dishes out a bunch of significant stats and analyses the (unlikely) scenario that, if everyone went vegan by 2050, it is estimated that food-related greenhouse gasses could be reduced by three quarters. Perhaps the future really could be vegan.