Ahead of EU Elections, Here’s How Parties View Plant-Based Policy Issues

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A survey of 60 Europarties and national parties outlines the political stance on plant-based policies ahead of the EU elections in June.

Next month, people in the EU will take to the ballot in the bloc’s latest elections, at a time when it is cracking down on deforestation and greenwashing, but has questions over its caged farming, green fertiliser and alternative protein policies.

To make things a little clearer, the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) polled 60 parties from the EU and its member states, asking them about the common agriculture policy (CAP), the promotion and development of plant-based analogues, VATs and financial incentives, and their views on environment and health.

The most universally supported policy recommendation was the implementation of binding targets to improve the climate impact of the CAP, with nearly 79% of parties in favour. The implementation of a ‘polluter pays’ principle to agriculture (such as a carbon tax) was also popular, with 69% of parties indicating their support. Introducing binding targets to enhance health within the CAP was the third-most-popular policy, with 65% in favour.

But it seems the most polarising policy for EU lawmakers is the VAT on plant-based proteins. While 30% say they would support a lower tax for these products than their animal-derived counterparts, 26% are against this, while 38% have no position on the issue.

The mandatory inclusion of plant-based meals in public canteens also divided opinion, with 42% for and 26% against the measure. Meanwhile, 23% of parties were against setting binding targets to increase plant protein consumption – though 46% supported this idea.

EU parties show positive views on contentious issues

eu plant based policy
Courtesy: European Vegetarian Union

The disproportionate amount of subsidies afforded to animal proteins has been a major source of criticism for the EU. Between 2014 and 2020, the livestock agriculture sector received 1,200 times more public funding in the region than alternative proteins, with 50% of cattle farmers’ income coming directly from subsidies.

In fact, 82% of farmer subsidies under the CAP go towards animal agriculture – a fact that parties seem to recognise, with 54% expressing support for shifting subsidies away from the livestock sector towards whole foods and plant-based products. Such a transition has been encouraged by the World Bank on a global level, with multi-pronged benefits for food security and the planet.

Meanwhile, 47.5% of parties say they recognise that plant-based diets are an essential tool to achieve climate targets. It chimes with research published earlier this month that supportive policies for alternative proteins in Europe could see the region achieve levels of self-sufficiency last seen 30 years ago, with major cost reductions for carbon removal and a significant expansion of nature restoration projects enabling the EU to surpass its Farm to Fork targets.

Another thorny issue in the EU relates to the labelling of plant-based meat and dairy – while the bloc voted to keep allowing companies to use meat-related terms on the former, those producing milk and dairy alternatives were prohibited from using words like ‘milk’, ‘yoghurt’ or ‘cheese’ in 2020. But when the EVU asked if parties believe vegan products should be able to use labelling terms like ‘plant-based sausage’ or ‘soy milk’, nearly half (49%) said yes.

Meanwhile, tax disparities on meat and dairy analogues are another hotly debated issue. But while there are differing opinions on whether the VAT on these products should be lower than conventional animal proteins, there’s much clearer support for an equal levy, with 56% of parties backing a levelling of the playing field.

EU politicians are divided over other alternative proteins like cultivated meat or fermentation-derived proteins – while 39% are in favour, the same number have no position on these foods, and 21% are against them.

Which EU parties are the most supportive of plant-based food?

eu elections
Courtesy: European Vegetarian Union

The policy recommendations featured in the questionnaire were based on the EVU’s Plant-Based Manifesto, which sets out the climate actions needed by EU officials, which currently fall short. Released ahead of the elections, the manifesto asks for targets to increase the share of plant protein consumption by 60% by the end of the decade, 70% by 2040, and 80% by mid-century.

Elected officials in the EU need to base the CAP on the One Health approach, lower VAT rates for plant-based alternatives, develop carbon pricing for agriculture and prioritise the scale-up of vegan products. They’re also asked to adopt a Sustainable Food Systems Framework, and ensure a just transition that supports farmers’ shift towards plant-based production.

The national parties surveyed by the EVU mostly support its recommendations, though the percentage of ‘no position’ answers is significant (crossing 30% in 10 out of the total 16 questions), demonstrating the need for further internal discussions about these issues.

France’s Parti Animaliste and Partido Equitable, and Spain’s Partido Animalista con el Medio Ambiente all displayed 100% alignment with the policies at hand. Zeleni in Czechia and the Danish Red-Green Alliance agree with 15 of the 16 recommendations, not stating a position in just one recommendation.

In terms of the Europarties, the prevalence of ‘no position’ was higher, but overall rejection was still low –it must be noted that while EVU approached 11 of these parties, the European Democratic Party, European People’s Party, European Conservatives and Reformists Party, and the Identity and Democracy Party did not respond.

Of the remaining seven, the highest alignment was found in Volt’s answers, which agreed with all 16 policy recommendations. This was followed by the European Green Party (13 affirmative answers, and three with no position). On the other end of the spectrum was the European Christian Political Movement, which rejected seven policies and had no position on eight others; and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, which agreed with two, but had no position on the rest.

June 6-9 are pivotal dates for the future of the EU, with its citizens deciding who will represent them in the European Parliament for the next five years. In a climate election year, when half the world is voting, supportive policies for the climate will go a long way.

When asked if they would support the development of an EU-wide Plant-Based Action Plan or fund to increase R&D, production and consumption of alternative proteins – the way Denmark has done with its national plan – 55.7% of the parties said yes. But whether all this is purely words or actually translates into policy, we’ll find out soon enough.


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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