The state’s animal welfare label downplays the meat problem

animal welfare and climate
The state’s animal welfare label downplays our meat problem

Young pigs in fattening

© Budimir Jevtic / Adobe Stock

Turbo or organic mast? Anything in between? Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir has just presented the “cornerstones” for mandatory state labeling of breeding systems. But eating a little better meat is not enough

Do people buy “better” meat when they know the conditions under which the animals lived? At least that’s what vegetarian, Green politician and Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir are hoping for. Now – after years of discouraged and unsuccessful attempts by his predecessor – he has presented the “key points” for state meat labeling.

It has been calculated that more and more people would choose better goods (from an animal welfare point of view) at the supermarket checkout, if they had readily available information about their origin. The requirement to label eggs is often cited as an example of such success.

Now it is undoubtedly true that more and more people are asking about the life and death of the animals they eat. It is doubtful, however, that they constitute a critical mass that will change the market.

Experience with voluntary labeling of the form of farming by the retail trade shows that a range of products from much better forms of farming than the minimum legal standard is often not available at all. So the true freedom of choice at the supermarket counter remains a theory.

On the other hand, for most people, especially in times of inflation and rising food prices, the purchase price should play a key role. “Cheaper” always works in the end.

The state transfers its responsibility for animal welfare to consumers

Currently, there are few objections to people making informed purchasing decisions. In fact, mandatory labeling is overdue. But two basic problems remain.

First, the constitution obliges the state to protect animals. With the label, it not only creates a little more transparency – it transfers its state responsibility to the people in the supermarket who are now faced with considering empathy and wallet. In this way, the state legitimizes the farming conditions that can hardly be called pathetic. The difference between the lowest and the second of the five levels of housing is 20 percent more room for pigs; There is no information on the label about diseases and conditions during fattening, about conditions during transport and at the slaughterhouse.

Second, those who have the choice between various miserable farming conditions do not necessarily eat less meat. But just what is required: less consumption of animal products. Because in addition to the glaring problem of animal welfare, there is also a no less glaring environmental and climate problem in animal husbandry. Brazilian soybeans, EU wheat in feed troughs, destruction of rainforests, use of pesticides and fertilizers, soil depletion, manure in groundwater, antibiotic resistance are just examples of the enormous collateral damage from high meat consumption. The only consequence is that we have to get out of turbo livestock production.

This requires better education about the (including health) consequences of eating meat. Fairer prices, including fairer taxation at the regular rate. Significant increase in the minimum legal standards. No more subsidies to the mega stables at the lowest level of animal welfare. Labeling obligation throughout the EU.

And a drastic reduction in the number of animals. The second largest agricultural exporter in the world shows how this can be done. The Netherlands launched a € 25 billion recall program for pet owners last year.

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