Greenpeace released a report on 12 February 2019 on how public funds delivered via the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are currently used, finding that around 71 percent of EU agricultural land is used to feed livestock.  

When excluding grasslands and only taking account of land used for growing crops, the report concludes that 63 per cent of arable land is used to produce animal feed instead of food for human consumption.

Estimates in the report reveal that between €28.5 billion and €32.6 billion go to livestock farms or farms producing fodder for livestock, amounting to between 18 and 20 per cent of the EU’s total annual budget.

Greenpeace’s report states that this intensification of the use of agricultural land to support the livestock sector is having massive negative impacts on nature, the climate and public health.

The European Commission has roundly rejected the report, with an official saying: “The report jumps to conclusions and makes uncertain and unverified links to substantiate a dubious claim that cannot be based on facts or statistics.”

The official also pointed out that Greenpeace’s own author acknowledges that the 71 percent is not a precise figure because it is not possible to precisely map farm subsidies onto specific types of production.  

“The fact is that we can only know for sure which amount goes to the livestock sector with voluntary coupled support (provided under specific conditions when a sector has economic difficulties, or in areas of high natural value such as mountainous areas),” the official said, noting that that figure was about €3.2 billion.

Greenpeace responded to this blunt rejection of the report, calling it “bizarre” that the Commission refused to formally address the study but allowed an anonymous source to make “vague claims.”

“Our researcher contacted Eurostat and the agriculture directorate in the Commission asking for definitive data on the amount of land used to feed livestock, and the amount of CAP money linked to this sector,” Greenpeace said in an emailed statement.

“They did not provide the researcher with this information, so he made his own calculations, in correspondence with the Commission. Not only are the report’s methods and sources clearly explained, but the findings are also in line with other cited studies on the scale of livestock farming in Europe.”

The full report can be accessed on the Greenpeace website.