Agriculture min. told staff not to say "eat less meat" in climate change campaign: Advocates
The former agriculture minister intervened to remove a recommendation to eat less meat from a government campaign meant to address climate change, animal welfare group Wakker Dier alleged on Wednesday. The 2019 campaign, Everyone Does Something, included tips, like home insulation, reducing car use by walking or cycling, and promoting heat pump installations in homes.
The government also gave food recommendations, like eating more seasonal foods, buying local, and reducing food waste. Several ministries were involved in the campaign, including the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The lack of a suggestion to eat less meat was "strange," said Anne Hillhorst of Wakker Dier back in 2019.
Three years later, Wakker Dier said it obtained redacted emails suggesting that Carola Schouten directly intervened in the campaign by instructing staff not to include a suggestion that people should reduce their meat consumption. The advocacy group accused Schouten of “censorship” during her time when she was in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
A January 2019 email from one staffer said, "[Redacted] and I are blocking anything about meat, as the minister wishes. So it will probably be mentioned, but we will not elaborate on it, nor take it up.” Another email noted that eating meat was in the spotlight, suggesting it should not be discussed publicly. Then in April, the notion of eating less meat was permanently removed from the list of recommendations for the public campaign.
“Ms. Schouten had a crucial recommendation crossed off for fear of commotion. Shameful!” Hillhorst said in a statement on Wednesday. Even in 2019, Wakker Dier joined politicians, advocates, nutrition groups and others in expressing dismay.
The Ministry of Agriculture denied Wakker Dier’s accusation, saying Schouten herself never said a reduction in meat consumption should be excluded from the campaign, a ministry spokesperson told ANP. He added that Schouten wanted the message to be positive, and not include negative phrasing
Though she no longer heads agriculture policy like she did in the third Cabinet of Mark Rutte, Schouten is still in national politics. Schouten is one of the country’s deputy prime ministers, and is the Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions.