German liberals soften opposition to animal welfare tax – EURACTIV.com

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Germany’s liberal party, the FDP, no longer opposes an animal welfare tax on meat products, a new position paper unanimously hailed by the green coalition partner has revealed and stakeholders.

Read the original article in German here.

According to a new stand on the future of animal husbandry published by the parliamentary group of the Lower Saxony party on Monday 15 August.

Until now, the party had strictly rejected an animal welfare tax. In return, the Liberals want German breeders to be better protected against disadvantages within the EU common market.

To ensure “reliable financial support” for farmers in the transition to more animal welfare, an “animal welfare fund” should be created, which would be fed by an “earmarked animal welfare tax”, indicates the document.

In other words, traders should collect a tax on meat sold in Germany.

Initially, the animal welfare tax was proposed as a state aid funding tool to restructure animal husbandry and improve conditions by a network of experts known as the Borchert Commission, which had been appointed by former Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner.

Since the commission presented its final report on the levy in 2020, animal welfare and environmental organizations have been pushing for the implementation of the farming restructuring proposals.

Klöckner’s successor, current Green Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir, presented his proposal for a mandatory animal welfare label in June. So far, however, the coalition partners, including the FDP and the Greens, have not been able to agree on a funding concept for more animal welfare. The issue had also been left out of the coalition agreement.

The third and largest coalition partner, the socialist SPD, has previously come out in favor of the levy, but has not actively pushed for its introduction.

Towards a compromise

Coalition partners, notably the Greens, welcomed the FDP’s shift in stance.

According to the spokesperson for food and agriculture of the Greens parliamentary group and former agriculture minister Renate Künast, the FDP document paves the way for the restructuring of livestock farming.

“We strongly welcome the fact that the FDP has followed the demands of Minister Özdemir and the Greens and dropped its opposition to adequate funding for the conversion of housing for livestock,” Künast said.

This is “an important support for more animal welfare and fair competition”, she added.

The newspaper has also received positive feedback from several associations.

This is “in the right direction,” Bernhard Krüsken, general secretary of the German Farmers’ Association, told EURACTIV Germany.

The federal association FDP must now accept the proposal, Krüsken said. “Hurry up.”

Krüsken also referred to the crisis in the pig production sector.

To stem its exodus from Germany, animal welfare tax must be accompanied by mandatory breeding and origin labeling, as well as adjustments in construction and control legislation immissions, he added.

According to animal welfare organization PROVIEH, the document also brings the federal government “one big step closer” to restructuring animal husbandry. It can now “follow up on the acts of a real transformation of livestock farming”, explains the association’s livestock specialist, Anne Hamester.

“Only with sufficient and secure funding will the legal minimum standards be raised to the necessary level,” she added.

Almost a first in the EU

If the ruling parties did indeed agree on the introduction of the animal welfare tax, Germany would be only the second EU country to introduce a specific tax on meat, according to a recent study. report commissioned by the EU executive, which looked at tax measures applied to food across the EU.

The only EU member state to have introduced something similar before is Denmark, which in 2011 introduced an excise tax on certain food groups high in saturated fat, including meat alongside dairy products or margarine, for example. The tax was in place until the end of 2012.

However, the country’s decision to include meat products was not voluntary, but only came after the European Commission ruled the meat exemption as a breach of EU rules. on state aid.

EU competition

Meanwhile, in exchange for its lax stance on animal welfare etiquette, the German Liberals’ stance demands that the competitive disadvantages of German breeders – especially in the pork market – be eliminated at the EU.

“The demand for pork is decreasing, while at the same time farmers have to deal with massive, sometimes contradictory requirements, which often go far beyond the standards of other European countries,” explained the spokesperson. agricultural policy of the FDP state parliamentary group of Lower Saxony, Hermann Grupe. , the day the article was published.

This puts German pig farmers at a competitive disadvantage in the European market, he said, noting the reduction in pig farming in Germany and the increase in other countries.

The document thus calls for a moratorium on national requirements, according to which there should be “no new requirements” which “would put German agriculture at a further disadvantage in European competition”.

In this context, the parliamentary group also believes that the animal welfare tax should mainly serve to offset the additional costs caused at national level by higher standards and thus ensure the European competitiveness of the industry.

The “financial compensation for competitive disadvantages” could therefore also be abolished if EU standards are harmonised, writes the document.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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