When you make a choice you also choose its consequences

Birthe Steenberg, European Livestock Voice: “We won’t tell you what to eat, drink or wear. But what we’d like to show you is our point of view. Because when you make a choice you also choose its consequences.”

Birthe Steenberg, Secretary-General of Avec (Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in the EU Countries) and one of the spokesmen for the European Livestock Voice initiative, during the webinar “The future of meat” – see video below) organized by the student association SIB Groningen of the homonymous Dutch university, explains why meat and therefore the livestock sector are so important.

We will not tell you what to #eat, drink, or wear. But what we would like to show you is our point of view. Because when you make a #choice, you also choose its #consequences. #MeatTheFacts Click To Tweet

Starting from the role of meat in human evolution and from the larger size of our brain thanks to its consumption over the millennia, Steenberg moves to a very interesting detail: the health conditions of hunter populations that, even today in some parts of the world, consume large quantities of meat, from the Inuit of Greenland to the Hadza in Africa, passing through other populations of Asia and the Americas. Birthe Steenberg points out that, with meat consumption in some cases reaching 500 kg per person per year, health problems of these people are much lower than those found in developed societies, which, despite having much lower meat consumption, maintain very different lifestyles (and often a very different diet).

Sedentary lifestyle, over-processed foods, replacement of animal proteins with high-calorie plant-based foods (with the same amount – 133 g – and protein – 28 g – for example, a chicken breast has 140 kilocalories, compared to 430 of a bean dish) show it is not the amount of meat that is causing health problems, but it is a set of many other factors.

#Sedentary #lifestyle, ultra-#processed #food, replacement of #AnimalProteins with #HighCalorie #VeggieFoods: it is not #meat creating #health problems, but a combination of many factors. Click To Tweet

Listed by Steenberg are also the reasons why livestock and agricultural sectors are complementary, always remembering that the necessary reduction of chemical fertilizers, as well as organic farming, would not be possible without manure and natural fertilizers from farms.

Another important subject matter in the webinar: What are the main sources of greenhouse gases related to human activities? Despite what some environmental NGOs are saying almost obsessively, the main sources are not farms. Time to look at the true origins of climate change: energy and transport in the first place. It should also be remembered that the agricultural sector has seen its emissions falling by a great deal in the last thirty years, for reasons that, especially in Europe, ranging from reduced production compared to the past to greater efficiency (it is produced more than before, with fewer resources).

The reduction of #ChemicalFertilizers, as well as #OrganicAgriculture, would not be possible without #manure and #natural #fertilizers from #livestock. #MeatTheFacts Click To Tweet

And what about animal welfare, a very sensitive subject by both farmers and the Western public opinion? Well, Birthe Steenberg recalls during his speech that European legislation is the most stringent in the world, based on scientific data and facts, and then it deals with the real needs of animals depending on the species they belong to. The problem is, points out the Danish expert, that today this topic is addressed more emotionally than scientifically.

The risk, following a purely emotional and often irrational approach (that of people willing the end of industrial farming in Europe), is to demolish our excellence and then importing meat and animal origin food from third countries far from respecting European rules on animal welfare, respect for the environment and workers, safety, etc. A risk we’re already taking, actually. In this way, everything that has been done in recent decades in Europe to achieve greater levels of efficiency and sustainability would be in vain. Legislation that is overly anti-meat like that is trying to make its way in the coming years could devastate the entire livestock sector and much of the agri-food sector, leading us to depend on non-European realities in animal foods supply (lower in quality and less “ethical”).

We need to know the #science and the #facts behind #AnimalProduction, in order to adopt the right #policies. #MeatTheFacts #FarmToFork Click To Tweet

In conclusion, pointing out that the world’s demand for meat is still growing, Steenberg explains what a world without farms would be, listing the environmental, landscaping, cultural and economic damage that would be met if this were actually to happen (behind every European farm there are at least 7 jobs in rural areas). Let’s then remember that animal productions are not all the same. Biological ones, for example, strongly promoted by the European Commission also through the Farm To Fork strategy, are excellent, but require, for example, more water and other resources.

We must, therefore, know the science and the facts behind animal production in order to adopt the right policies, Steenberg points out because if we only rely on emotions, we can make choices that are wrong and dangerous. For both animals, human health, and the environment.

Here the speech by Birthe Steenberg, in English.



Journalist specialized in sustainability, climate change and environmental issues, he writes for various newspapers, magazines and websites. He worked in 2007 at the Center on Sustainable Consumption and Production, born from the collaboration between UNEP and Wuppertal Institut. Graduated in sociology, for years he has been focusing his work on the impacts of food production, starting from those related to animal husbandry and animal production. At the end of 2018 he has published the book “In difesa della carne” (“In defense of meat"), published by Lindau.