Brussels – On the eve of a major reform of European Union farming rules, the European Commission has glossed over the growing environmental and health impact of the industrial meat and dairy sectors, warned Greenpeace.


In a paper released today, the Commission recognised public concern over the impact of farming, but failed to provide a concrete plan to transition away from destructive farming practices. It reiterated its support for the current subsidy system under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which has favoured large-scale industrial farming.

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: “The industrial production and overconsumption of meat, milk and eggs in Europe is having a devastating impact on our health, nature and the climate. The Commission’s failure to even mention the problem shows the EU is asleep at the wheel while our food and farming system heads straight for disaster. The new EU farming policy should reward farmers who provide healthy food while protecting nature, water and soil, and the climate.”

The EU animal farming sector accounts for between 12 and 17 per cent of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and is a major cause of environmental destruction, from water pollution to soil degradation and habitat loss. Over 80 per cent of EU agricultural ammonia emissions into the air and nitrogen emissions into water are caused by livestock farming. Research published in the journal Nature estimates that nitrogen pollution costs the EU up to €320 billion per year.

Average European meat and dairy consumption is about 70 per cent higher than the World Health Organisation’s recommendation. Meat consumption is double the global average, while dairy consumption is three times higher. The WHO warns that excessive animal protein consumption is a major cause of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Subsidising industrial farming

The Commission also supported the continuation of the decried practice of subsidising farmers based on the area of land they own or lease, and irrespective of farming practices. These so-called ‘direct payments’ have been criticised for penalising small-scale farmers and encouraging unsustainable production, waste and environmental destruction.

Direct payments represent almost 80 per cent of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget. According to Commission data, 80 per cent of farmers received just 20 per cent of direct payments. Just over one per cent of EU farms received one third of all CAP payments. Between 2007 and 2013, the EU lost 3 million farms, but the average size of farms increased.

Overall, the CAP accounts for almost 40 per cent of the EU budget, or the equivalent of €58 billion.


Marco Contiero – Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director: +32 (0)477 777034, [email protected]

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, [email protected]

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