Change of course in German agricultural policy: towards the end of intensive farming?
the popular diary Photograph chose the moment well to publish an interview with the new German Minister of Food and Agriculture: right between the two Christmas Eves, in the Sunday edition of December 26, 2021. This is enough to point out the somewhat provocative remarks of Cem Özdemir ( Verdes), a Turkish-born federal prime minister, who does not intend to give in to the conventions, as he demonstrated when he arrived by bicycle for the transfer of power. The confectioners’ truce and their food rush gives this vegetarian the opportunity to throw a stone into the pond. When announcing the construction sites that await him, he only needs one sentence – “it is no longer about selling food at low prices” – to destroy an entire economic model that had its day and proved its harmfulness. Calling itself “supreme protector of the animals of this country“, the minister gives the death sentence to intensive animal husbandry, a mode of production that is ruining farmers, increasing animal cruelty and harming the climate. To fulfill the election promises of the German Greens, he intends to end the government’s cosmetic policy and, finally, act effectively: guaranteeing good breeding conditions, reducing herds; eliminating animal abuse, introducing dissuasive penalties and installing video surveillance in slaughterhouses; increasing the share of agricultural land cultivated in an organic way, guaranteeing public purchases.
In a country where more than half of adults are overweight, it is clear that many Germans eat poorly, continues Cem Özdemir. As they are finished products, their mode of action will be based on coercion and no longer on voluntary commitments on the part of the manufacturers; he thus wants to ban the advertising of unhealthy foods aimed at children. Last mentioned project: the establishment of hemp plantations, because the coalition government plans to legalize cannabis. German farmers will be able to grow “these useful plants“as soon as the Bundestag approves the law enacted by the Ministry of Health. The minister hopes that this state-controlled market will strengthen consumer protection, especially young people.
For in the future, animal products will have to be reduced
To find out if the goals presented by Cem Özdemir are realistic, the economic weekly WirtschaftsWoche asks agricultural and food policy expert Peter Feindt, a professor at Humboldt University in Berlin. Which goes in the direction of the government, even though it recognizes that the minister did not hesitate to support where it hurts. Admittedly, the German agricultural model, largely subsidized by the community, is not viable; it is therefore high time for the government to intervene, and the measures announced will, in any case, be far from sufficient. The minister, for example, mentioned the creation of a national seal to guarantee animal welfare, but it is unlikely that he will be able to do so outside the European framework, which will increase the difficulty of implementing it. Another problem: an increase in organic production will imply higher prices, while the demanding market is not yet prepared for such an increase, as it is used to the low prices practiced, in a context of very strong competition, by the four large chains ( Aldi, Lidl, Rewe and Edeka) dominating trade in Germany. Thus, an increase in food prices can only be achieved through aid for the retraining of farmers, and through increases in social benefits and the minimum wage to support the most precarious. Does Germany run the risk of endangering its agriculture by encouraging consumers to turn to cheaper imported products? No, answers the expert, because the need for more sustainable agriculture will inevitably be essential in the coming years, as the health risks linked to mass production will become more visible. And we will then realize how problematic livestock is, to come to the conclusion that there is no alternative but a general reduction in the consumption of meat and milk.
It’s the whole community that finances meat at low prices
From an environmental point of view, the words of the new Minister of Food and Agriculture are a real “blessing“, surpasses the radio channel Deutschlandfunk. To end the “subsidy madness“And to protect the climate, State action is in fact desirable, because we cannot rely solely on personal initiatives. It is no longer enough to raise awareness or inform, because even those who are fully aware of the harmful effects of intensive agriculture have great difficulty in abandoning the their eating habits and give up meat-based food, and it is the community that bears the cost of meat at low prices, because by subsidizing mass production, European agricultural policy makes the community pay in many ways, bequeathing them soils polluted by slurry and waters poisoned with nitrates, for example. As Minister Cem Özdemir himself pointed out, it is therefore necessary to increase food prices, because the price of a product must reflect its ecological reality. of intensive agriculture and livestock will no longer be supported only by the community, through taxes on drinking water, for example, but, ultimately, by the consumer himself. or. When we know that the agri-food sector consumes almost 70% of the world’s water and that it is responsible for around 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, it is obvious that it is at the heart of climate change, which is both the driver and the victim. when water becomes scarce. Declaring war on this form of agriculture is, therefore, a healthy step for ecology and for consumer protection, who will gain from this, eating perhaps less, but better, which will undoubtedly help him to live longer.
Male chick culling: the beginning of the end
1er In January 2022, a measure planned since 2019 came into force in Germany: the end of the slaughter of male chicks in laying hen farms – cases of epizootic diseases and animal experiments are the only exceptions. In hatcheries, male chicks are actually considered unprofitable as they do not lay eggs or produce a sufficient mass of meat. Each year in Germany, more than 40 million of them are systematically eliminated after hatching, usually by suffocation. This procedure, however, is contrary to the German Animal Welfare Act, which states that it is prohibited to inflict pain, suffering or harm on an animal.”without causeTherefore, the Federal Administrative Court made the protection of animal rights prevail over economic interests in 2019, and set the end of the practice of slaughter for 2022. This end, however, is only a first step. , therefore, according to art. will of animal welfare associations, the law will be improved in 2024 in order to restrict the period during which egg sex determination (or sexing) days of incubation can take place, and currently sexing takes place between the 9and and the 14and day. However, embryos are sensitive to pain from the 7thand day. That is why, from 2024 onwards, only methods that will take place during the first week of incubation will be authorized.
The new law does not satisfy neither the agricultural sector, which does not want to adapt to a system that will only be transitory, nor animal defenders, because it does not end with “the madness of high-yield creation“. Instead of resorting to this expensive method, another option would be possible, specifies the Die Zeit : Promote other, healthier, more robust breeds so that females turn into lower-yielding layers and males can be raised for fattening. In terms of chickens, the government may therefore have to review its entire strategy.