A new study analysing lobbying, subsidies and regulations in the EU and US found that the power of the meat and dairy industries is blocking the development of the greener alternatives needed to transition to a plant-based food system better for the environment, human health, and non-human animals’ lives. Animal agriculture in the EU received 1,200 times more public funding than plant-based meat alternatives, and in the US animal farmers got 800 times more subsidies.
As far as lobbying is concerned, in the US meat producers lobby 190 times more than the alternatives and was three times higher in the EU. Regarding spending, between 2014 and 2020, the amount of public money spent on plant-based alternatives was just $42m (£33m) – 0.1% of the £35bn spent on meat and dairy. The former accounted for 1.5% of all sales. In the EU, bovid farmers got at least 50% of their income from direct subsidies. For research and innovation spending, 97% went to animal farmers.
The study, titled “Public Policies and Vested Interests Preserve the Animal Farming Status Quo at the Expense of Animal Product Analogs.”, was authored by Dr. Simona Vallone and Prof. Eric F. Lambin fro Stanford University, and published in the journal One Earth. Prof Lambin said, “The power of the animal farming sector, both in the US and in Europe, and the political influence they have is just gigantic.”
Alex Holst, leader of the Good Food Institute Europe policy relations, said to the Guardian: “While European investment in sustainable proteins has increased in recent years, this study shows the sector is still only picking the crumbs off the EU’s table. The sector needs public investment to scale production and reduce prices [or] Europe risks missing out on the enormous benefits.”
In the EU, terms such as “milk” and “cheese” have been banned since 2017 for most alternative dairy products., and in the US there is a proposal that could prohibit the sale of alternative meats unless the product label included the word “imitation”.