‘If you choose to be vegan, don’t blame others for eating meat’

Choosing to turn vegan for climate change or ethical reasons doesn’t give people the right to appoint blame at meat eaters, a European Commissioner has stated.

Speaking to AgriLand at the Animal Health Ireland (AHI) 10th Anniversary Conference in Dublin this week, Vytenis Andriukaitis EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety advised against diets that exclude meat entirely.

Addressing the topic of farmer concern over future food consumption trends, the Russian-born commissioner – who is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania – said it is “absolutely necessary” to have a diverse pallet.

“It is not up to the EU Commission to tell people what they can eat.

“But, we do see developments in consumer behaviour and some developments in consumption.

“Vegans are combining an ethical approach to diet with climate change and some agricultural production, of course some vegetarians are too.

But humanity as a whole is omnivore and it’s up to the commission to see how can we improve nutritional profiles which can help people to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

The commissioner, who is also a medical doctor, said the nutritional composition of our food is very important, particularly when it comes to the body’s ability to fight against diseases such as: obesity; cancer; osteoporosis and others.

“Industrial food production should be monitored and measured and regulated to avoid allergens and to keep high food safety standards and to see how can we really change the situation.

“We need to reduce the food chain and allow people to have more fresh food because fresh food has more vitamins, minerals and more micro elements which are only in fresh food.

“We need to see how we can really help producers to produce more fresh food which is obviously healthier.

“It has been an old religious tradition for millions of years not to eat meat on a Friday – it’s a tradition but it’s also healthier,” he said.

He said the targets should be on overuse of salt, sugar, fats, alcohol, more so than meat consumption.

We are not saying ‘don’t eat meat’, that is absolutely not the scientific approach.

“We are saying please reduce intake of sugar in industrial produced food. We are speaking to industry about food formulation and to reduce the intake of salt in food.

“It’s up to you to be vegan. And if you think you are right being vegan; please don’t blame those people who are eating meat.

“It is absolutely necessary that we have a culture of food that is so diverse, so different, so excellent, please don’t exclude some type of food in your life because you will be unhappy.

“The scientific recommendations are to use some big variety of food in your seven-day cycle, but please keep in mind that if you are using red meat don’t use it everyday five times per day – because you risk elements that could provoke cancer in your life.

“Try first day chicken, second day pork, third day beef, fourth day vegetables, fifth day fish all with lots of fresh vegetables and exercise – this advice is very logical.

“The Mediterranean diet or Nordic country diets are good examples,” he said.

The EU Commission is currently looking at new proposals around the conventional food pyramid based on and assessment of nutrition, age and development.

Scaremongering

He had the below message for farmers:

“Farmers should be aware about tenancies in society and what it means for the market. If people try to buy less and less from farmers that creates more and more problems.

Some people look at climate change today and blame farmers immediately for being responsible because they are producing a lot of meat.

“But don’t create scaremongering, don’t worry people around the globe. There is a huge demand out there for Irish beef, Irish pork, Irish sheepmeat and Irish poultry.

But remember that is trade, and trade is not a one way approach. It might mean that we have to allow for some concessions too,” he said.