“Each year more than 8.3 billion land animals are raised for food in the EU alone”
Excessive consumption of animal products across the EU is contributing to serious chronic health problems. Studies show that individuals who eat a plant-based diet, on average, have a lower body weight and a decreased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. This should act as a motivator, considering that such chronic diseases account for 80 percent of deaths in the EU. Plant foods may even have protective properties against many chronic illnesses.
A 2008 study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation calculated that turning the tap off on EU Common Agricultural Policy subsidies for dairy and meat would avoid 12,844 deaths from stroke and heart disease, assuming saturated fat consumption dropped just 1 percent. This is a conservative estimate. If halting such subsidies affected consumption more, as was observed in Finland (5 percent) and Poland (7 percent), the life savings could be many fold higher.
“Substituting animal protein with plant protein is associated with lower mortality”
Animal products have an outsized environmental impact, with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations concluding that the animal agricultural sector is among the top three contributors to all environmental problems worldwide. A 2008 report found that the consumption of meat and dairy products accounts for approximately 24 percent of the environmental footprint of food and non-food consumption in the EU.
The science is clear that reductions in meat and dairy consumption are required to achieve meaningful reductions in GHG emissions. Animal agriculture accounts for 14.5 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions globally, and even greater percentages of some of the most potent greenhouse gases such as Methane (35-40 percent) and Nitrous Oxide (65 percent). A 2014 study further predicts that reducing consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs across the EU by 50 percent would decrease the EU’s GHG emissions by 19-42 percent.
A shift towards more plant based diets would significantly reduce the pressure on European river basins. The farm animal sector is also a major consumer of scarce water resources, with animal products generally having larger water footprints than non-animal products.
“Producing pork and chicken requires 4 and 6 times more water per calorie respectively than producing cereals or starchy roots”
Reducing our meat, egg, and dairy consumption reduces our reliance on the factory farming of animals. It is difficult to truly account for the degree and amount of suffering that farm animals experience while raised in intensive confinement systems, without even addressing the slaughtering process.
Animals are recognised in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as sentient beings. Each one of them experiences complex emotions spanning from pain and frustration, to excitement and joy. But in the prevailing intensive farming systems around the world, they have been reduced to agricultural commodities and are regularly subjected to assaults on their physical and emotional wellbeing and denied the ability to carry out many species specific natural behaviours.
“the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals”