According to the Guardian, in September 2023 Marc Fesneau, France’s agriculture minister, talked at a large agribusiness event encouraging farmers to produce more cheap meat through intensive farming. He is quoted as saying, “Animal welfare issues only work if we find someone to pay”, which goes to show how reformist animal welfare measures taken by the animal agriculture industry are often only PR exercises rather than genuine changes driven by ethics.
This announcement seems to represent a U-turn of French policy, as since 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron has tried to push the country’s meat industry away from intensive farming. In 2018, Macron urged the European Union to reform its subsidy system, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which has long rewarded animal factory farms.
France even passed a ban on eggs from battery-caged hens that was supposed to come into force in 2022, but in the end only applied to the sale of whole eggs in supermarkets, not those used in processed food. In 2018, 68% of France’s egg-laying hens were still forced to spend their lives in cages, while now is 25%. According to the Guardian, some egg farmers who switched to cage-free systems are regretting it due to increased demand for cheaper caged eggs, and France may revert now to more outdated cruel practices.
If this U-turn is confirmed, France would be going in the opposite direction to other European countries such as the Netherlands, which has been trying — so far unsuccessfully — to negotiate a strategy with farmers for reducing livestock numbers to tackle nitrogen pollution from manure. Like the Netherlands, France suffers from nitrogen pollution that is causing toxic algal blooms, which now will get worse if more factory farms are built.