Never Doubt The Power of Big Farming – EU Law Being Milked

When people’s eyes are opened to the harms caused by the modern Western diet (to human health, the environment, and the vast majority of farmed animals) one of the first questions they ask is “Why haven’t our governments been doing something about this?” The answer can be no better exemplified than in the war that Big Farming is waging against non-meat alternatives. And we, the trusting public, sit back and let it happen under our very noses – because we can’t believe our governments would let Big Business manipulate its valued tax-paying citizens in such a blatant manner…

The following is a cut-down version of an article1 on the BBC News website:

France to ban use of meat terms to describe vegetable-based products

  • Vegetable-based products such as soya steaks or vegetarian sausages marketed as meat substitutes (that contain no meat)  are to be banned in France for “misleading” consumers.
  • The same measure will apply to dairy alternatives such as soy milk/cream/yogurt, tofu cheese etc.
  • Failure to comply will lead to fines of up to €300,000 (£260,000).
  • The regulation, tabled in the form of an amendment to an agriculture bill, was proposed by a farmer MP (Jean-Baptiste Moreau, a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s political movement La République En Marche), who argues that products such as vegan and vegetarian alternatives are confusing for consumers.

Of course, it would be pandering to the profit-oriented self-interest of big business to comply with this MP’s proposal – wouldn’t it? Nobody in government is going to believe that the real reason for M. Moreu’s concern is poor Mme. De Lune having to scratch her head in confusion while at the fresh meat counter, struggling to solve the riddle of whether or not the deceptive tofu ‘burger’ actually comes from a cow.

Surely no government would be so much under the influence of Big Farming (or Big Food and Big Pharma, for that matter) to agree to such ridiculous demands! It’s one thing to protect small-scale Cheddar cheese producers but it’s a totally different matter to protect the already extensive power of Big Farming against small-scale producers of (healthier) plant-based products?!

After all, turning common words like “milk” or “sausage” into legally protected trademarks for the sole financial benefit of Big Business is something that no right-thinking government would ever allow!

Well,  wonders will never cease – the BBC reports that “The measure was approved by French MP’s on Thursday [19th March 2018]”.

And in case you hadn’t noticed that the word “milk” has disappeared from all plant-based milk-alternatives, let me remind you of another BBC News article2  that appeared in the middle of 2017.

EU court bans dairy-style names for soya and tofu

  • Plant-based foods cannot be sold in the European Union using terms such as milk, butter and cheese, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.
  • Since December 2013 EU regulations have stated that designations such as milk, butter, cheese cream and yogurt can only be used for marketing and advertising products which are derived from animal milk.
  • There are some exceptions. Coconut milk, almond milk, peanut butter, and ice cream are somehow still allowed (?!) Why – I simply cannot fathom.
  • However, soya and tofu were not exempted.
  • In the case of TofuTown ( a German company producing meat-free alternatives), German consumer protection group (!!) VSW, which aims to combat unfair competition, complained that product names like “Soyatoo Tofu Butter” and “Veggie Cheese” broke EU law.
  • The VSW went to the regional court in Trier in a bid to stop the company describing its soya and tofu products as milk or cheese.
  • TofuTown argued that its advertising did not infringe the EU legislation and so the court asked the ECJ to intervene.
  • No joy there – The ECJ ruled that the designations like milk and cheese could not be legally used for purely plant-based products: “The addition of descriptive or clarifying additions indicating the plant origin of the product concerned, such as those used by TofuTown, has no influence on that prohibition.”
  • What’s interesting is that the court here has interpreted the law very strictly,” says Katie Vickery, a partner with law firm Osborne Clarke here in the UK. “There has been a lot of growth in the sale of these kinds of products in recent years. There’s a consensus that customers obviously understand what they are buying – and firms may have thought they could get away with it…This ruling suggests otherwise.” It certainly does!

The next thing is that we will not be legally allowed to make claims that non-meat/non-processed foods are healthier than those produced by Big Farming and Big Food. Already, anyone videoing the reality inside the US megafarms can be prosecuted under anti-terrorist laws, since they are potentially adversely affecting the profits of Big Farming.3

With the precedent set by the likes of Monsanto, it’s not too many further steps before “water” and “air” will be protected by trademark and we will not be able to use (or talk about) anything as being water or air unless it’s provided by some international conglomerate. George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Big Brother-scenario seemed so unrealistic when I first read it as a child. Oh the days of innocence…


References

  1. BBC News: France to ban use of meat terms to describe vegetable-based products. 20 April 2018. []
  2. BBC News: EU court bans dairy-style names for soya and tofu. 14 June 2017. []

  3. Wikipedia: Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.  []