Public Funds and Plant-Based Priorities

Francis Devlan: Cattle (White Bull) // Public domain

In August 2023, an article exposing financial support from public funds for the animal farming sector was published in The Guardian.

These entities receive over a thousand times more funding from the government fund than plant farmers, thereby blocking alternative access to support from the European Union.

Meat and Taxes

Similar situations occur in the United States, where dairy and meat farms receive eight hundred times more funding from the state than those cultivating only plants. However, as reported by The Guardian, when we look at the subsidies and regulations we can see that some livestock farmers can receive up to one thousand two hundred times more funding.

Moreover, research published in One Earth is clear – those involved in animal farming receive much larger amounts of money. It is not uncommon for government funds to be allocated up to 97% to the livestock industry, almost entirely covering the financial needs for the development of these companies.

Discrimination against the plant sector, as well as plant-based successors to meat, dairy, and eggs, is thriving and taking on new forms. Money spent on animal farming, so-called livestock farming in the United States by the government, was one hundred ninety times higher than on their plant-based alternatives, while in the European Union, funds allocated to animal farming were three times higher.

As Professor Eric Lambin emphasizes, due to the influence of politicians on agriculture in the United States and the European Union, the power of the livestock sector remains immense. As long as we support agriculture based on animal products, the climate crisis will continue to deepen. We need a critical approach and a departure from funding those who harm the planet, people, and animals.

Investing in plant-based protein sources for humans is crucial in the fight against climate change, the effects of which we are increasingly feeling. Vegan agriculture can bring significant developmental benefits to the economy, partly because plant-based protein is much more efficient, with less exploitation of land and resources such as water. To “produce” 500 grams of beef, 1650 liters of water are needed, while to grow the same amount of edible vegetable mix, only 75.5 liters of water are required.

Naming Issue

Discrimination against agriculture based on the production of plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs takes multiple forms. On the one hand, there is a persistent problem of underfunding plant-based start-ups, but there is also little discussion about the issue of nomenclature for meat and dairy alternatives. The system prohibits the use of terms such as “milk,” “cheese,” or “yogurt” when referring to plant-based dairy alternatives.

In 2013, Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the common organization of the markets in agricultural products was issued. The regulation was proposed by Éric Andrieu, a former Member of the European Parliament from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in 2013.

The fight for amendments, No. 165 regarding meat substitutes and No. 171 regarding dairy substitutes, lasted until 2021 and was won by the plant-based meat and dairy substitute sector. Unfortunately, this victory is still somewhat illusory. Plant-based dairy alternatives cannot be called milk, cheese, or yogurt, and in many EU member states, including Poland, the meat lobby is beginning to push for the censorship of vegan sausages.

Veganism and Health of People and the Planet

Despite the fact that with a balanced diet, plant-based alternatives are better for our health and the planet, nutritional guidelines remain silent on this, avoiding the truth about the catastrophic impact of meat and dairy on human health and the natural environment. Meat also has a negative impact on human health, yet it continues to be funded. The vegan lifestyle is still persecuted by the medical community in many countries around the world.

The exceptions are the countries of the north – Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, where the dietary system has undergone a huge change precisely because of the new guidelines, through which a diet enriched with plant products is promoted as a healthier alternative to the current lifestyle. It is worth noting that one of the goals of the dietary system change is not only the health benefits of plant-based food, but also a positive impact on the natural environment. This is the biggest revolution in the food market in almost forty years of the history of The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. The motivation for changing the approach was a diet safe not only for people but also for animals:

The report provides a scientific basis that demonstrates that a healthy diet is usually also sustainable. Several great synergies can be forged between health and the environment in the necessary transition of our food consumption,” says Rune Blomhoff, project leader for the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2023 and professor at the University of Oslo.

The fact is that the complete elimination of animal products from our diet can significantly contribute to halting ongoing climate change, as meat production accounts for up to 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, a plant-based diet involves less water consumption, fewer pollutants, and less deforestation. This is the simplest way for us to reduce humanity’s negative impact on nature. As the Green REV Institute, we demand  a step further towards a coplete transformation of the current dietary system.

Will the Common Agricultural Policy, EU legislation, and funds indeed start supporting the plant-based food sector? The upcoming elections to the European Parliament raise hopes for change and fears that the desire for reform and transformation will give way to electoral pragmatism and a desire to support the status quo at the expense of people and the planet.

Written by Anna Spurek.

The article was originally published in Polish at:

Translated by Natalia Banaś

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