At least 1,550 people infected with Corona at Europe’s largest slaughterhouse (Tönnies in Rheda-Wiedenbrück), 260 at Westfleisch in Coesfeld, over 20 at the PHW Group/Wiesenhof – the developments of the last few weeks clearly demonstrate what we have actually known for a long time: The meat industry violates the rights of its workers in the same way it violates animal welfare. Germany’s Minister of Labor, Hubertus Heil (SPD), has already announced measures to eliminate grievances. Now also Minister of Agriculture, Julia Klöckner (CDU), has voiced her opinion. She speaks out in favor of a so-called »animal welfare levy« as a means to prevent ever new dumping prices at the meat counter.
Klöckner follows expert committee’s recommendations
Such a levy had already been recommended in February by a commission of experts led by former Agriculture Minister, Jochen Borchert. Klöckner now seems to have abandoned her then reluctance to that: »Meat is too cheap,« she told the German press agency. »Something will also have to change for consumers. Meat is not meant to become a luxury product for the rich. But also no everyday junk good.«
The panel of experts had proposed price increases of 40 cents per kilogram of meat, two cents per kilogram of milk and per egg and 15 cents per kilogram of cheese or butter in order to fund improvements in animal husbandry and necessary modifications in the design of the stables. For example, pigs, cows and chickens were meant to be given more space in the stables and access to outdoor areas.
Levy or tax?
The commission of experts had brought the levy into play in the form of an excise tax on animal products. However, if the levy were to be implemented as a fixed amount per kilogram or product, respectively, this would have major advantages over a tax. The levy could be earmarked for specific purposes, i.e. for better animal welfare, and would lead to an equal increase in the prices of all animal products. A tax, on the other hand, would make products from less harmful farming methods (e.g. organic farming) more expensive; as these already cost more – this would be counterproductive.
We welcome the Minister’s change of mind and hope that her words will soon be followed by deeds. It gives us hope that there is apparently already an agreement between the CDU/CSU and SPD factions in the German Parliament. It is said that the intention is to present the federal government with »a short-, a medium- and a long-term implementation strategy for the transformation of livestock farming within this legislative period«. We will keep at it.