The withdrawal of Amendment 171 during the trialogue negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council is an important step in the move towards plant based alternatives. While terms like ‘Vegan Cheese’ and ‘Soy Milk’ have long been banned in the European Union, this amendment would have taken it a step further and would have banned any comparisons between dairy products and plant based alternatives. Comparisons like ‘Has as much calcium as milk’ or ‘Vegan alternative to yoghurt’ would not have been allowed any more.
Plant-based alternatives have been rising in popularity over recent years and for good reason: They are generally more environmentally friendly, cause less greenhouse gas emissions during production and don’t evoke the animal welfare concerns the dairy industry does. Facing a climate emergency, the European Union needs to support a move away from animal derived products and towards those alternatives. According to a Study conducted by the University of Oxford, a glass of dairy milk emits three times the amount of greenhouse gases that a glass of oat drink does, uses 10 times as much land and water. Every plant based alternative tested in the study showed a significantly lower impact on the Environment when compared to dairy. While these alternatives don’t have the lobby power behind them that the dairy industry has, they can play a key role in our move towards a sustainable future.
However, the environmental benefits are not the only advantage of plant-based alternatives: The dairy industry is far from animal friendly. In order for a dairy cow to give milk, she needs to be inseminated, give birth to a calf and then have that calf taken away so the milk can be used for human consumption. Millions of male calves are disposed of every year as a by-product of the dairy industry and end up on long transports to third countries to be slaughtered for their meat. Once a dairy cow is not productive enough anymore, often after less than 5 years, she usually ends up in a slaughterhouse too.
Luckily, amendment 171 was withdrawn, so that comparisons like the following one are now allowed: Plant-based dairy alternatives emit a fraction of the greenhouse gases, use significantly less land and water and are much kinder to animals. While the rejection of amendment 171 was an important first step, the European Union must do better! We need to actively encourage a move towards more plant based diets for us, our planet and the animals!