German Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner invited meat industry officials to discuss the future of livestock farming on Friday. The meeting comes after several coronavirus outbreaks at meat-processing plants in Germany have led to increased scrutiny on conditions for workers and animals in the industry.
Klöckner is looking to discuss animal welfare and workers’ rights and is calling for an animal welfare levy to be added to the price of meat in Germany and for people to consume less meat.
“There is hardly another European country that has meat as cheap as we do,” Klöckner said ahead of the talks. Although meat should not become a “luxury product,” she wants Germans to move away from expecting to be able to buy “cheap meat” to eat every day.
Industry representatives from abattoirs, meat-processing plants, the farming sector, animal rights groups as well as veterinarians are invited to attend the talks in Dusseldorf, along with the agriculture ministers of the states of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Lower Saxony, where many of the affected plants are based.
Trade union: ‘We’ve heard it all before’
While some have welcomed the talks, the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) have dismissed the negotiations as a “show.” They say the “last-minute” talks will not bring real change for the working conditions of thousands of workers.
“There have already been enough announcements and promises,” the DGB’s Anja Piel told German newspaper the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. “We’ve heard it all before — but nothing ever happens.”
The meat-processing industry has been harshly criticized for poor conditions for workers, many of whom are brought in from eastern Europe, described by activists as akin to “modern slavery.” Two districts of 60,000 people were recently put back into lockdown after more than 1,000 workers at a Tönnies meat-processing plant tested positive for COVID-19.
Klöckner is expected to announce a plan for a “readjustment of the meat industry” following the afternoon talks.
ed/msh (AFP, epd, Reuters)
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