Monday, May 23

Consumption. Schools, advertisements, politics… How the meat lobbies influence us

They intervene in schools, they broadcast advertisements for sometimes carcinogenic products, distribute brochures in favor of meat to doctors and even influence in high political circles. In a report published on Tuesday and titled “How the meat lobbies are manipulating us”, Greenpeace denounces “the sprawling network of influence” formed by industrialists and meat lobbyists in France.

After a year of investigation, the NGO has brought to light numerous techniques used by pork, poultry, beef and egg lobbies to “convince consumers that by eating French meat, whatever the breeding method from which it comes, we contribute to taking care of the planet and that it is useless to eat less of it”. While taking care never to mention the negative externalities of meat, from animal abuse to greenhouse gas emissions generated by livestock farming.

Laure Ducos, spokesperson for Greenpeace and lead author of the report, identified 25 interconnected professional and interprofessional organizations that defend the interests of meat. They are linked to four main organisations: 13 to the FNSEA (National Federation of Farmers’ Unions), 9 to Inaporc (pig trade association) and 10 to Interbev (meat and livestock trade association).

Schools and children, prime targets

Greenpeace denounces the fact that lobbies, mainly Interbev, interfere in schools via cartoons, comics, kits, games, brochures or even goodies distributed to children, teachers, parents and animators extracurriculars.

“There are also some for school nurses and doctors,” says the NGO. These often gendered tools “praise the merits of animal proteins and meat in particular, and insist on the iron needs of adolescent girls to hammer home a single simplistic message: meat is necessary and indispensable”.

The NGO also collected testimonies reporting school outings organized by Interbev to farms. The manufacturer even has a website intended solely for teachers on which they can book free, turnkey school outings on the theme of meat. On the site, we only see photos of animals in the open air. “However, you will not find any information on the negative externalities of factory farming,” notes Greenpeace.

The beef lobby also carries out communication actions in the heart of canteens, assures the NGO, by distributing here again “kits to catering managers, posters and magazines to students and an information booklet to parents bearing in particular on French breeding and on nutritional obligations in collective catering”. Between 2016 and 2019, the Interbev campaign entitled “At the table with the Joliprés”, available in TV series, comics and activity books, reached 999 municipalities, 4,226 restaurants and 508,985 young people aged 6 to 11.

The medical profession also affected by meat lobbies

The meat lobbies are even getting into medical practices, whether in general practitioners or dieticians. Some meat products, such as charcuterie, are proven carcinogens according to the World Health Organization.

The NGO puts forward impressive figures: in 2016, a brochure entitled “Health: don’t forget the meat!” was distributed by Interbev in 7,900 waiting rooms of general practitioners, gynecologists and paediatricians. This corresponds to 22 million patients affected and 100% of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants covered.

The meat interprofessions also regularly take part in numerous professional and general public medical and nutrition events. In 2020 and 2021, Interbev was for example a partner of the Francophone Nutrition Days.

Links with the political and scientific world

If these lobbies are so powerful, it is also because they maintain links with the political world, underlines Greenpeace. For example, in 2016, 172 French parliamentarians were members of the “Friends of the pig club”, funded directly by Inaporc, the pork interprofessional organization. That is nearly one in five MPs. Among them, Christian Jacob, president of the Republicans. Other clubs exist, such as “Vive le foie gras”, financed by the associated interprofession (CIFOG), which welcomes 121 parliamentarians, according to data from Greenpeace.

Meat manufacturers also opt for “science washing” and maintain close ties with research organizations, sometimes by funding them. These lobbies are thus omnipresent at the Academy of Agriculture, a public utility establishment of a scientific nature. In 2020, he published a controversial report on nitrites, the health dangers of which he relativizes. Same thing with the Meat Academy, which has a partnership with Interbev. “This Academy plans to carry out a critical analysis of IPCC publications, in particular on the real involvement of livestock activities in greenhouse gas emissions”, specifies Greenpeace.

Monster communication campaigns

This influence in private and public domains is made possible by massive investments in communication campaigns.

In addition to children, meat lobbies are trying to target millennials and Generation Z, French people in their twenties or thirties who are increasingly attracted to meatless diets for ethical or environmental concerns.

Interbev, for example, did not hesitate to divert the term “flexitarian” – the fact of consuming meat on an occasional basis – by reducing it to the simple fact of eating “quality” meat. Interbev also orchestrated in 2020 a campaign called “Love meat, eat better”, signed “naturally flexitarians”. In 2020, the television spots of this campaign would have reached more than 16 million French people aged 25 to 49, as well as 14.5 million people on social networks. In the eyes of 78% of the individuals affected, the spot makes them want to buy meat, underlines Greenpeace.

This influence is also played out at the European level. As Greenpeace recalls, Inaporc launched a campaign in 2020 entitled “Let’s talk about pork”, broadcast in the EU, which financed part of it. The goal: to encourage young people to eat pork. This campaign reached 74 million millennials in Europe.

Lobbyists don’t skimp on money when it comes to giving meat a good image. Thus, the annual budget of the interprofession of meat and livestock Interbev is between 35 and 45 million euros, of which two thirds are dedicated to practices of influence. In addition, 60% of the budget of the national interprofessional association for meat poultry (Anvol) was dedicated to communication in 2020.

Towards a ban on meat lobbies in schools?

Greenpeace “is not anti-meat”, assures our newspaper Laure Ducos, spokesperson for Greenpeace and main author of the report. In the latter, she explains that the NGO “supports peasant farms that guarantee animal well-being and preserve ecosystems, the climate and our health” and that “the production and consumption of meat, when they are reasoned, can represent many virtues”.

On the other hand, the NGO denounces the fact that the meat industry “acts covertly or uncovered in all spheres of public and private life to fight against the decline, however essential, in meat consumption and hide the reality of the impacts disasters of industrial meat production”.

Remember that barely 1% of French livestock farms produce two-thirds of France’s pigs, chickens and eggs. In addition, animal husbandry is responsible for 19% of global human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

“We want to talk about livestock and meat, and remind decision-makers that there is a real subject. There are more and more factory farms,” insists Laure Ducos. She stresses, however, that meat consumption and animal husbandry are increasingly being addressed by politicians, especially presidential candidates. She explains that the NGO pleads in favor of an “investment plan to support breeders to get out of industrial breeding” to turn to peasant breeding”. “It’s done in the Netherlands, Europe’s leading pork producer, which has just voted to reduce the country’s herd by a third,” she gives as an example, hoping that things will move in France.

In its report, Greenpeace also calls for a strict ban on the intervention of lobbies in schools and an end to public funding for communication campaigns in favor of meat consumption. The NGO also encourages scientists to refuse any participation in communication campaigns by representatives of private interests.

Greenpeace has also launched a petition aimed at the Ministries of Education, Agriculture, Ecological Transition and Health to “prohibit the presence of agri-food industries and meat lobbies in particular in schools”.

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