The EU Commission launched their strategy – The Green Deal in 2019. The Green Deal has the ambitious target to make the EU climate neutral by 2050 by making energy, transport, and buildings greener, improving air, water, and soil quality, producing healthier food and sustainable agriculture.
For the European Livestock Sector, the most important part of the Green Deal is the Farm to Fork strategy, which consists of 27 initiatives, many of them with very ambitious targets. The EU Livestock Sector has not been sufficiently consulted however during the devlopment of this strategy, which is quite problematic since there is a lot of sustainability expertise within this sector.
Why is this? Why has the European Livestock sector not been one of the most important stakeholders in developing the Farm to Fork Strategy? One explanation is that people living in urban areas – the majoirty of people today – have a distorted picture of how food like meat, milk, and eggs is produced.
Fifty years ago, almost all Europeans had a close connection to a farm. Either they grew up on a farm themselves – or they had family they often visited who were farmers. This meant that most people had good knowledge of how their food was produced. Due to different circumstances, the number of farms in Europe declined a lot in the last 50 years – and many of the farms which are still there have become bigger and much more efficient. Since fewer and fewer people work in or have a connection with livestock production, there is an increasing need to tell the story about how our food is produced, to keep consumers in urban areas well informed. Unfortunately, the Livestock Sector has not been focusing enough on this task – there is a huge lack of communication.
During the last 15 years, while Social Media has become very important in communication, many others – who have no relation to livestock farming – have filled this gap of information about Livestock Production. Unfortunately, the picture portrayed is in stark contrast with the reality experienced by farmers and professionals on the ground, and many myths and misunderstandings are circulating. This influences consumers, it impacts the views of politicians and it influences civil servants. It is crucial to bring back a balanced debate around the Livestock sector, which plays an essential role in Europe’s rich heritage and future.
Livestock has been – and still is – blamed for many evils. The sector might not be perfect, but it is only fair to highlight the numerous measures already taken to make improvments and the substantial progress that has already been made.
Therefore Carni Sostenibili and European Livestock Voice recently launched the video The 9 paradoxes of Farm to Fork. The video highlights the fact that despite good intentions, the Farm to Fork strategy does not consider the actual situation and challenges of the livestock sector. The paradoxes identified reflect the many misconceptions and prejudices surrounding the livestock sector regarding the environment, health and the economy.
The aim of this video launch is to highlight to the EU institutions that the European Livestock Sector is part of the solution for creating a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system in the EU.
The sustainable way of making policy – is to base it on science and experience, not on myths and emotions. Therefore, the expertise from the people working in the Livestock Sector and all the scientists who have conducted research in this field must be listened to. Particularly in the years to come, when the Farm to Fork Strategy initiatives will be thoroughly debated and new policies and legislation will be made.
*Birthe Steenberg is Secretary General of AVEC, the voice of the European poultry meat sector.