Cem Ozdemir is unlucky. If he hadn’t only been Agriculture Minister now, but had been in the last legislative period, some things would be easier. This applies above all to the first major project of his house: the labeling of the section. In the future, all customers should be able to find out how a pig lived before it became a schnitzel. Did it vegetate in the stable, did it at least have a little more space than required by law, outside contact or an outlet? Does it even come from an organic farm?
The mandatory state license plate that Özdemir presented on Tuesday is intended to show consumers this at a glance. The Green Minister is starting out small: At first it’s only about pork in the trade, later poultry and cattle will follow, and one day canteen visitors and restaurant guests will also be informed.
The attitude labeling is overdue if you want more animal welfare in Germany. Actually, everyone agreed on this in the last legislative period, but unfortunately the label failed at the time. Özdemir’s predecessor Julia Klöckner wanted a solution on a voluntary basis, the SPD did not.
Valuable time has been wasted. That had consequences. From 2010 to 2020, the number of pig farms has halved. Small pig farmers in particular are giving up. There are many reasons for this. Farmers don’t earn enough from selling their animals to pay for fertilizer and feed. Germans are eating less and less pork. At the same time, Aldi and Co. are making stricter specifications for their meat suppliers. In the future they only want to sell meat from better husbandry.
Many pig farmers would have to convert their stalls to do this, but the money is not there. Özdemir wants to help and promises state subsidies. But that won’t be enough in the long run. The one billion euros that the minister has is only enough for the start. And then? Will consumers then be asked to pay because the VAT on meat will rise from nine to 19 percent, or will there be an animal welfare tax of 40 cents per kilo of pig?
In normal times, that would be a sensible and highly overdue move. Especially if you make fruit and vegetables cheaper at the same time. Unfortunately, times are not normal. With food prices soaring, many people skimp on eating out. They buy special offers and buy supermarket brands. Price surcharges for more animal welfare come at the wrong time. The FDP recognized this and blocked it. Higher prices for groceries cannot be made with it.
And now? Özdemir is in a tight spot. The farmers jostle. They want and they need binding financing commitments that last ten, but preferably 20 years. That’s how long it takes to pay off a stable. And without binding guidelines, there is no money from the bank. In many companies, young people are now faced with the question of whether they should take over the farm. But they only do that if they earn money with their work.
Now it is decided which way Germany will go. Better animal husbandry helps animals, the environment and farmers. Are we serious about the conversion? Then we have to pay for it. Either at the counter or, if the FDP blocks an increase in VAT and the introduction of an animal welfare tax, with taxpayer money.
There is no more animal welfare for free. If you play for time, you cut yourself in the flesh. Without agreement in the coalition, the problem will solve itself because even more pet owners in this country will give up. The schnitzel then comes from Spain – without any labeling.