This week the European Commission published its Communication Paper on the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) post 2020 – ‘The Future of Food and Farming’.
Despite the Commission’s public commitments to make the CAP more sustainable and ‘future proof’, this Paper fails to address the unsustainability of Europe’s current agricultural business model with 8.6 billion animals (land animals) raised every year for food in the EU, the large majority of them in factory farms.
With Europe’s consumption of animal products in decline, a growing portion of Europe’s animal produce is destined to export market following purely economic considerations. Yet, their overproduction in highly intensified farms on European territory, incentivised by the current CAP direct payments, fundamentally clashes with Europe’s values in animal welfare and its expressed determination to tackle major societal challenges such as growing global food demand, pollution and climate change.
Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals says, “ We were expecting a vision towards more sustainability and are deeply disappointed that the Commission’s ambitions don’t go beyond maintaining the status quo. For the CAP to effectively deliver more sustainability and greater animal welfare, we need to overhaul the European agricultural business model, promote plant-based diets and focus on less but higher welfare animal produce. ”
With approximately 40% of the EU’s taxpayers’ contributions currently going to agricultural support through the CAP, one would expect such payments to mirror citizens’ expectations. A 2016 Eurobarometer survey on animal welfare indeed demonstrated that an overwhelming 94% of Europeans want to see the welfare of farm animals effectively protected.
But with the Commission Paper only marginally referring to animal welfare against the background of no more than 1.57% of CAP subsidies currently directed towards improving welfare, it seems the EC has no intention to address this.
And yet, this CAP reform provides an ultimate opportunity to drive a truly sustainable food policy which will provide sufficient healthy food for the world’s growing population as well as guarantee higher welfare and a fair income for farmers.
Eurogroup for Animals is convinced that the turning point in making Europe’s farming more sustainable will come once decision-makers embrace the WHO’s and the scientific community’s  vision that animal product consumption should be further reduced, in Europe’s agricultural policy and legislative instruments whilst driving higher quality and higher welfare food production.