European livestock bodies take action to tackle farming myths

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

European livestock bodies take action to tackle farming myths

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Representatives from the European livestock sector gathered this week in front of the European Commission buildings in Brussels to address the danger of oversimplifying the debate around livestock and its role in society.

Aiming to tackle the myths related to livestock production, the European Livestock Voice, a group of EU-based organisations (see box below) that are active on livestock issues, decided to campaign at EU-level by bringing together farmers, MEPs and other stakeholders from the sector to 'burst' a series of balloons carrying common myths or misinformation in front of the European Commission building. This action took place on the first day of the European Commission’s Agricultural Outlook conference and a few days after the new European Commission was appointed in order to try to rebalance the debate around livestock production.

Several months ago, the European Livestock Voice launched an initial campaign at EU level supported by a website with the aim to engage in the debate, focusing on facts and feedback from professionals in the sector. During the flash action, the organisers announced that the group will continue and expand these actions in the coming months.

Marianne Streel, president of the Wallonian Farmers Organisation, represented the group during the flash action. She said “We want to urge people and policy-makers to pay attention to the European livestock sector and to the misleading information that is damaging its reputation and endangering farmers’ livelihoods and even their lives in some cases. In Wallonia, farms shut up shop every day. In the last 10 years, 31% of our farms have disappeared. These are clear and frightening figures that can also be found in other Member States. If we lose our livestock farms, the repercussions will be significant in many areas, both in our countryside and on our plates. These consequences are currently overlooked in the debates because we tend to forget the positive aspects of livestock in Europe.”

MEP support

The event was attended by several MEPs supporting the European livestock sector.

Spanish member of the Vox Party Mazaly Aguilar said: “We need to stand up with facts and figures. I am a strong supporter of the European Campaign #MeattheFacts, because it shows the livestock contribution to soil fertility, carbon sequestration, organic fertilizers, bioeconomy etc.  There is no healthy environment or balanced healthy diet without livestock production! In addition, it is important to have in mind that around 30 million jobs are linked to the livestock sector, many of them in areas with risk of abandonment or desertification. This sector is crucial for keeping our rural areas alive.”

French politician Jérémy Decerle said: “As a livestock farmer, I am very happy to stand here in front of the European Commission of this important sector and the work of livestock farmers. Before we attack the farmers, we should acknowledge all the improvements and investments they made towards reducing emissions and improving animal health and welfare. We need to encourage them to do more, not discourage them. We also need to ensure that they don’t suffer in trade deals due to the high standards of their production, but have fair trade that guarantees protection of these high standards and of the European farming. We cannot put agriculture products on the same foot with cars or arms.”​ 

Austrian MEP Alexander Bernhuber explained how European farmers need to be supported.

“European standards for animal husbandry and welfare are by far the most stringent in the world. In order to continue to comply with them consistently, there must not be any cuts in EU agricultural subsidies especially for small and medium sized farms. I would like to underline that I am not against trade agreements with countries outside the EU, but these agreements must not be at the expense of our farmers, who produce regional food of the best quality. Mercosur for example would do just that. The new EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that imported food must also meet our European production and environmental standards. I take her at her word.”

The group includes

•    AnimalhealthEurope – European manufacturers of animal medicines, vaccines and other animal health products

•    Avec – European Poultry Meat Sector

•    Clitravi – European Meat Processing Industry

•    Copa and Cogeca – European Farmers and European Agri-cooperatives

•    COTANCE – European Leather Industry

•    EFFAB – European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders

•    Euro Foie Gras - European Foie Gras industry

•    FEFAC - European Feed Manufacturers

•    FEFANA – European Specialty Feed Ingredients Industry

•    FUR EUROPE – European Fur Industry

•    UECBV – European Livestock and Meat Trades

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