How the IED directive crowds out sustainability and compassion for factory farming
Those who expect this directive to bring about progress for the environment run the risk of being agitated for nothing. It is indeed quite surprising to observe the extent to which a ‘gas factory’ such as this directive fails to protect the environment (the failure concerns the agricultural part; other industries have made progress). The regions of Europe where industrial livestock farming is concentrated know all about this. The primary aim of the directive is to authorise mass animal production facilities. How does it manage to distract from its stated environmental objectives?
Animal welfare issues are irrelevant; the worst intensive methods can be classified as ‘Best Available Techniques’ for environmental protection.
Limits on permissible emissions are calculated per animal (or per animal place) but never take into account the total number of animals on the farm or in the area; so there is nothing to prevent the concentration of mass production.
There is not the slightest thought given to what a healthy and sustainable food system would look like.
The revision of this directive, which is in the process of being finalised (at the end of 2023), does nothing to change this. The debate has focused on whether or not cattle should be included within the scope of the directive. Their impact on the environment would obviously justify it. The Commission sees the solution in the form of feed additives. Who has an interest in developing this market? The animal feed industry, obviously. When by far the most effective solution for the environment would be to reduce livestock numbers, while ensuring that CAP and consumer money reaches the farms rather than being sucked up by upstream and downstream industries and trade.
There is, however, one (very faint) hope: the Commission will define the operational rules to be respected. It is possible that some aspects of animal welfare (and therefore system change) will find their way into these rules… especially as the entire regulation on the protection of farm animals is under review. EFSA has produced scientific recommendations that call for changes, but they are already encountering opposition. The Commission has promised consultation with all stakeholders. There is every reason to fear that the same balance of power will have the same effect: the powerful industrial livestock sectors will not be thwarted by environmental obligations that go beyond what is already binding, whether for water or air.