More and more people in the EU (particularly the youth) are adopting a healthier and ethical approach to their eating habits. It is therefore, entirely reasonable, that food producers/retailers adopt a mandatory simple labelling system that indicates the suitability of food products for different dietary types. Alerting consumers to the type of ingredient, animal or plant based, will allow them to make better choices. This is especially important in light of the multilingual nature of the European continent.
Vegetarians, Vegans and Flexitarians (those who seek to adopt more of plant based diet) have to be hyper alert when studying the ingredients on food packaging – some of which can be ambiguous and there is often little clarity over whether products are vegan friendly or vegetarian friendly. The task of obtaining appropriate food products is much harder if you cannot speak the language of the country you are in.
In a continent which prides itself on the free movement of citizens – it is especially important that easy travel is facilitated for all members of the European community regardless of their dietary requirements. This will also make Europe a more attractive place to foreign visitors who follow a specific diet for moral, ethical, religious, cultural or health reasons.
Human beings have historically always used animals as a food source, however, in modern times, the animal agriculture which sustains the Western diet has become unintentional path to environmental destruction. Habitat destruction, for example, in the Amazon Rainforest, is bringing species to the brink of extinction as we compete for the space we share with other animals. The alarming and continued loss of habitat and biodiversity should concern us all because plants and animals are necessary for the regulation and health of the planet.
Livestock contributes more to greenhouse gases than transport and is a major cause of land and water degradation, which is only increasing as more ‘non western’ countries adopt a ‘westernised’ diet. We welcome curbs on transport emissions, but reducing the demand for land-use by livestock is a more holistic approach to tackling climate change. Anyone who cares for the health our our planet should be provided with the information to determine on the shop floor which product has caused more environmental damage getting to the shelf.
Animal agriculture is also where you find the worst instances of animal cruelty. Aside from the moral argument against the slaughter of animals; that they are sentient beings and therefore their lives no less worthy than our own. We are seeing more and more documentaries exposing the conditions that our fellow Earthlings are subject to: We see cows mourning for long periods after they are separated from their baby calves (so they can be artificially fertilised in order to keep the milk production going): We see baby piglets castrated and having their tails cut off, with no pain relief, who are then kept in a legal and extreme confined space: We see poultry having their beaks burned off in order to prevent them from pecking at each other in the small, legal confined spaces. These are just some of the tamer atrocities that take place in order to get that egg, cup of milk or chicken breast to your plate at supper time. Anyone who loves life and respects our fellow creatures should not wish these acts and practices continue.
The European Union recognises animals as sentient beings and should therefore ensure that consumers, who do not wish to contribute to the cruelties that take place, have access to information, so that they can make informed choices.
Furthermore there are the added health concerns which are coming to light in respect of an animal based diet. For example; processed meats being determined as a Group 1 health risk – carcinogenic to humans – which is in the same class as smoking tobacco.
Dairy has been linked to high cholesterol (along with eggs) and actually weakening bones by leaching calcium – making them brittle. It is entirely reasonable, with such health implications, that consumers should be given the opportunity to make informed purchases through clear labelling on food products.
Having a simple labelling system means all vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians and meat eaters can make informed choices about the food they eat in respect of their health.
Steps have already been taken in India where foods must be clearly labelled; vegetarian or non-vegetarian, in order to protect the interests of the consumers under India’s Food Safety and Standards Regs 2011 Chapter 2. This is done by brown symbol for non-veg foods and a green symbol for veg food. LabelVeg is proposing a similar labelling system, which includes an additional symbol signifying a vegan-friendly product, should be adopted within the EU to protect the interests of consumers across a continent which has 25 official languages.
Upon reading this article, you might be asking yourself the question: ‘Where do vegans/vegetarians get their protein from?!’ In response we ask the question: ‘Where does an elephant get its protein from?’ And ask a further question; ‘Which species is causing unsustainable environmental damage to our planet?’
Across the EU adopting a plant based diet is on the increase. In the U.K. there is now a legal case that will say whether veganism can be considered as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 which includes religion or belief (philosophical belief is covered under this). We await further update on this.
The time has come to take a sensible approach in order to recognise this evermore growing ethical and healthier lifestyles people across the EU are adopting, it is entirely sensible that manufacturers are put under a duty to declare if their food
products are vegetarian or vegan friendly with a simple label (especially given the language barriers that exist).
Article by Joel Baccas and Madeleina Kay
References and Further Articles:
Meat UN world’s most urgent problem: