Environmental NGOs think the new EU Common Agriculture Policy is a Disaster

By James O’Donovan

The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), fund the animal agriculture and fishing industries.  Together these are the biggest drivers of ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, water pollution and ultimately poor human health outcomes in the EU.

Earlier this year, 3,600 scientists published a paper outlining the ten basic steps needed for an overhaul of the CAP, warning that it was a central driver of the biodiversity and climate emergencies as it funded practices that cause significant biodiversity loss, climate change, and soil, land and water degradation.  But the largest political groups in the European Parliament – the European People’s Party, Socialists & Democrats and Renew Europe – came together and actually lowered the already pathetic environmental conditions in the CAP.  This vote approves nearly €400bn that will drive unethical and unsustainable farming practices in the EU for the next seven years.

Greta Thunberg tweeted: “While media was reporting on ‘names of vegan hot dogs’ the EU parliament signed away €387bn to a new agricultural policy that basically means surrender on climate & environment. No awareness means no pressure and accountability so the outcome is no surprise. They just don’t care.”

As Greta said this is not a surprise.  In a previous Vegan Sustainability article, ‘The EU Green Deal, Biodiversity and Farm 2 Fork 2030 Strategies – A Vegan Perspective’ we outlined how these strategies called for an increase in plant based agriculture but they were completely insufficient to restore Europe’s already collapsed biodiversity and they would never be implemented.

The reason for this is embedded in the very structure of the EU Political System.  The Biodiversity and Farm 2 Fork 2030 strategies are overseen by the EU Commissioners for Health and Environment.  The Agricultural Commissioner oversees the negotiations for the CAP. Corporate meat and dairy lobbyists also have open access to MEPs.  According to Corporate Europe Observatory, “The CAP has been supported by a close network of interests that block any change. This network is formed of a diverse group: ministries of agriculture across Europe, DG Agriculture officials, and the majority of members of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, have long teamed up with the big farm lobby group Copa-Cogeca and a wide array of food and agribusiness corporate lobby groups to keep the status quo mostly unchanged.  Copa-Cogeca is a hybrid lobbying group consisting of of farmers’ unions and companies – and sides with pesticide giants like BASF, Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta, and with food multinationals like Mondelez, Nestlé, and Unilever.”

It’s not that MEP’s don’t understand that there is a relationship between biodiversity, climate, human health and the food system.  Despite knowing this they choose to vote for big meat and dairy which gets 70% of the CAP payments.  Ecological and Human Health cannot be permitted to challenge the enormous profits of the giant meat and dairy corporations.  The farmers who supply them either get big or get out or live below the poverty line on subsidies.

What’s in the new CAP?

  • MEPs voted against proposals to cut subsidies for factory farming.
  • MEPs voted against a greenhouse gas emissions-reduction target for agriculture of 30% by 2030.
  • Harriet Bradley, an agriculture policy expert at BirdLife Europe, said the decisions meant the world was “one step closer to extinction for many species”.  She said perhaps “one of the most shocking and spiteful” votes to environment was that “in the unlikely event that agri ministries are queuing up to fund environmental schemes, they shall be prevented [from doing so] by maximum spends on environmental measures”.
  • A ban on converting grasslands in biodiversity-rich nature-protected areas was lifted, so more could be turned into maize fields, she reported.
  • The new CAP document also deletes “the need for farmers to have a tool for more sustainable use of nutrients”, Ms Bradley said, pointing out that agriculture is the biggest source of nitrate pollution in EU waters, responsible for dead zones and toxic algae. Ecoschemes will fund new spraying machines that could potentially cause damage if used to kill insects and weeds, she added.  This will continue to push bees, butterflies and countless other insect species inexorably towards extinction.
  • Greenpeace’s EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: “MEPs have signed a death sentence for nature, climate and small farms, which will keep disappearing at an alarming rate.
  • The new CAP explicitly rules out a link with the objectives of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.

In the crucial decade for taking action to avert tipping points for nature and climate, it is impossible to countenance spending €387 billion of taxpayers’ money, a third of the entire EU budget, on driving rather than solving the crisis.  While Europe’s Environmental Organisations have called for the CAP proposal to be withdrawn Europe’s politicians have voted for animal agriculture.  They have voted for Genetically Modified Feed crops and deforestation in South America and they have failed other species and future generations. 

The Next Steps

While the finer details are still to be negotiated between the Council of Ministers and the Parliament, the Commission still has the power to withdraw and amend the CAP proposal. More than the ability to do so, it is a matter of juridical and ethical obligation for Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission to act while it still can. Otherwise, with decreasing public scrutiny, proponents of industrial farming will continue crippling this bill during the trilogues and the implementation phase at the national-level.

Ultimately through continued efforts in education, public protests, by setting up vegan food businesses and from pressure from vegan environmentalists we will continue the gradual transition to a vegan food system and continue to disrupt the animal industries.  This CAP is certainly a major setback.

Withdraw the CAP

The Withdraw the CAP campaign has a range of well meaning but ineffective demands on this page  It also provides a summary of 40 reasons Why the EU needs to Withdraw the CAP  which does not take the rights of animals into consideration.


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