Lobbying by meat and dairy sectors weaken EU policies on reducing greenhouse gas

The meat and dairy industries used two key narratives in order to frame how the issue is perceived by consumers and policymakers.
Lobbying by meat and dairy sectors weaken EU policies on reducing greenhouse gas

NEW DELHI: Global dairy and meat companies are lobbying to stall policies of the European Union aimed at addressing livestock greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and transition to sustainable diets. As a result, meat and dairy companies are backsliding on climate and environmental target reduction of greenhouse gases set by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations agency.

A new report, ‘The European Meat and Dairy Sector’s Climate Policy Engagement’, prepared by non-profit think tank InfluenceMap reveals that the European meat and dairy industries are using tactics similar to the fossil fuels industry to build a strategic narrative against the government policy.

The meat and dairy industries used two key narratives in order to frame how the issue is perceived by consumers and policymakers. In its first narrative, they emphasise the importance of livestock for society, while in the second narrative, they distance livestock from being viewed as a driver of climate change. (See figures) The dairy and meat industries keep pushing these narratives and their sub-narratives, appear repeatedly in consultation responses, public statements, and social media produced by the meat and dairy sector – as well as in direct communication between the entities assessed in this report and EU Agricultural Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski.

InfluenceMap had previously detected similar tactics used in the fossil gas sector to maintain a role for gas in the energy mix. The report analyses the advocacy of the 10 largest meat and dairy companies in Europe, and the five biggest industry associations, on six key EU policies aimed at tackling GHG emissions in agriculture.

It says the narratives used stand in contradiction to the latest science-based recommendations by the IPCC in 2022 and 2019 and the 2019 EAT-Lancet study of how to transition to sustainable and healthy diets from a sustainable food system.

For example, the associations the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union, European Livestock Voice, and Copa-Cogeca have all emphasised across multiple channels the importance of livestock consumption for human health, with meat producer company Vion Food Group stating that meat is “an essential food”. However, the 2019 EAT-Lancet study indicated that healthy sustainable diets consist of “low amount of animal source foods”, adding adopting such a diet could avoid 11.1 million deaths per year in 2030.

Moreover, meat producer Tönnies Group downplayed the impact of methane emissions from agriculture, stating that the company’s food products “maintain natural cycles” and that methane emissions were part of a “continuous cycle”. This contrasts with the IPCC’s findings in the 2021 Climate Change Report on the Physical Science Basis, which states that methane emissions from the agricultural sector, particularly livestock, are rising.

 The report says intense lobbying has weakened policies. For instances, two of the six policies were significantly weakened, and three appear to have stalled. These include policies such as the EU Sustainable Food Systems Framework, a “flagship” policy of the Farm to Fork Strategy to transition to sustainable diets, and the revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive, which regulates pollutant emissions from European farms. The European People’s Party appears to have adopted the sector’s narratives to oppose legislation that may have also contributed to the frustration of these policies’ success. 

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