New research in Nature Food has found that the EU is pumping four times more money into animal agriculture than plant agriculture. More than 80% of the public money given to farmers through the EU’s common agriculture policy (CAP) went to animal products in 2013, the latest year for which an academic database on food flows held data. The CAP has been reformed twice since then but the split in direct subsidies has stayed roughly constant for both animal and plant farmers.

The study, published online on 1st April 2024, states that the subsidy scheme, which pays more to farms that occupy more land, results in “perverse outcomes for a food transition” because animals take up more space than plants and are inefficiently fed crops that could feed people. Cow flesh requires 20 times more land than nuts and 35 times more than grains to produce the same amount of protein.

The researchers also found that 12% of subsidies were embodied in products that were shipped outside the EU, mostly to upper-middle and high-income countries.

Paul Behrens, an environmental change researcher at Leiden University and co-author of the study, said the following about the EU spending nearly one-third of its entire budget on CAP subsidies: “The vast majority of that is going towards products which are driving us to the brink…We’re incentivising the worst-case scenario.”

Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of the accelerating death of wildlife and is responsible for at least 12% of the greenhouse gases that cause the current climate crisis. With the EU planning to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, spending nearly one-third of its entire budget on CAP subsidies to the animal agriculture industry makes very little sense.

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.