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News on an Emerging Vegan World – Summer 2023

Plant-based sales up 21% since 2020

Sales of plant-based foods across 13 European countries have grown by 21% since 2020 with the category reaching a record €5.8 billion, according to a new report.

International non-profit the Good Food Institute Europe (GFI Europe) analysed data from 13 EU countries, finding sales of plant-based meat grew to €2 billion in 2022 – accounting for 6% of the overall pre-packaged meat market.  Other categories which included plant-based seafood and cheese, saw double-digit growth.

The report found plant-based milk is the most developed category, now making up 11% of the overall milk market, with sales growing by 19% between 2020 and 2022 – almost twice as much as conventional milk – to reach €2.21 billion last year.  While plant-based milk unit sales grew 20% between 2020 and 2022, conventional milk unit sales decreased by 9% in the same period.  

“These figures show Europe’s appetite for plant-based foods is continuing to grow”, said Carlotte Lucas, Senior Corporate Engagement Manager at GFI Europe.  “European companies and governments have a critical role to play in supporting consumers to make more sustainable choices. Companies must continue investing in product innovation to develop delicious and affordable plant-based options. And governments must invest in the research and infrastructure we need to reduce prices and improve the quality of plant-based options, in order to deliver on their climate targets and enhance food security.”

Irish Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss calls for switch to more Plant-based Diet

A report from the Irish Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss has called for a switch to a “more plant-based diet”.  The recommendation was supported by 60% of assembly delegates.  Dr. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, who chaired the 99-person assembly, said this was one of the more robust discussions of the group.  The wording of the recommendation had changed from “eating less meat to eating a more plant-based diet”, she said.

The report also said that environmentally harmful subsidies in the agriculture and food sector must be phased out, and that organic farming must be incentivised.  Current State policy on the management of biodiversity on agricultural land is not sufficient and required fundamental review, the report said.

New Zealand and Brazil ban Live Cattle Exports

In April a ruling by a Brazilian court banned the export of live cattle from all the country’s ports.  The ruling, which has been hailed as historic by animal welfare groups, was the result of a lawsuit filed in 2017 by a group called The National Forum for the Protection and Defense of Animals.

The verdict was handed down by federal judge Djalma Gomes.  “Animals are not things. They are sentient living beings, that is, individuals who feel hunger, thirst, pain, cold, anguish and fear”, the judge wrote in the ruling.

New Zealand also banned live exports in April, following several prominent ship sinkings where several thousand sheep and cattle were killed. There are also increasing calls across Europe to ban live exports.

High Seas Treaty to protect International Waters finally reached at UN

After almost 20 years of talks, UN member states have finally agreed on a legal framework to protect the high seas. The treaty which covers almost two-thirds of the ocean will provide a legal framework for establishing vast marine protected areas, and will establish a conference of parties to meet periodically, enabling member states to be held to account on issues such as governance and biodiversity.

The EU, US, UK and China were key players in brokering the deal.  The European commissioner for the environment, ocean and fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, described the agreement as a “historic moment for the ocean” and the culmination of more than a decade of work and international negotiations.

193 nations in total agreed to the deal.  However, conservationists say it leaves significant scope for improvement. In particular, countries agreed that existing bodies already responsible for regulating activities such as fisheries, shipping and deep-sea mining could continue to do so without having to carry out environmental impact assessments laid out by the treaty.

Half of US Restaurants now offer Plant-based Options

48% of American restaurants now offer plant-based options according to a new report by the Plant Based Foods Association.  The report shows explosive growth in plant based options on US menus – a 62% growth since 2012. 

The report looked at data from a number of restaurant types, including on-site, quick service, fast casual, fine-dining, and more to paint a picture of how plant-based foods are being adopted within the food service industry.  They found that restaurants in the West were most likely to use terms such as “vegan,” “dairy-free,” and “vegetarian” on menus, while eateries in the South are least likely to emphasize these terms. The Northeast is the most likely to use the term “meatless” on menus. 28% of US restaurants say they plan to add plant-based meat to the menu in 2023.

French Government forced to close Fisheries in Bay of Biscay to protect Dolphins

Three years ago, French non-governmental organisations (NGOs) filed a court case against France’s inaction to protect dolphins in the Bay of Biscay.  Finally, the French High Court of State ordered the French Government to temporarily close certain fishing areas to guarantee the conservation of the dolphin population in the area. 

Dolphins are iconic species protected by EU legislation under the Habitats Directive. However, up to now, their protection has been no more than nice words on paper. Between 5,000 and 10,000 dolphins are killed every year in the Bay of Biscay as they are accidentally caught in fishing nets.  (You can read our article on fishing bycatch in the current issue here).

This judgment from the High Court of State represents a historic victory for both dolphins and NGOs, who have been working for years to move governments and the European Commission to comply with EU legislation and duly protect marine sensitive species.

Six Indigenous Reserves created in Brazil

Swathes of the Amazon rainforest are now protected from mining and commercial farming after the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, created six new Indigenous reserves in the country.

Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The move effectively puts 620,000 hectares (1.5m acres) in the hands of Indigenous groups – a proven solution to deforestation, rates of which soared under previous president Jair Bolsonaro.   Indigenous groups welcomed the decision, but said more reserves were needed.

Efforts to halt deforestation have stepped up in Brazil since ‘Lula’ was re-elected.  In February, troops were sent into the jungle to oust illegal miners, and the president has pledged to halt tree loss.  He has had some success with this in the past as deforestation rates fell by 68 per cent during his previous term in office.

A ‘Dam’ Good Year – 830 Km of river habitat restored in Europe

Hundreds of weirs, dams, levees and culverts were dismantled in European waterways in 2022 – a record-breaking year for river barrier removal. At least 325 were removed across 16 countries, reconnecting more than 515 miles (830km) of habitat and clearing the way for migratory fish to reach breeding areas.

from World Fish Migration Day April 21, 2018

Migratory fish are one of the most threatened groups of species in the world with average decline of 93% in Europe according to the WWF due to millions of manmade barriers, overfishing and pollution.  You can see a map of the barriers on the AMBER Project Map.

The figures were published by Dam Removal Europe (DRE), a coalition of conservation organisations including Rewilding Europe and the World Fish Migration Foundation (WFMF).  Herman Wanningen, WFMF director and founder of DRE, hopes the progress can be replicated across the planet. “We have started a riverlution,” he said. 

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