On Monday 2nd of March, ORF III – Kultur und Information, the specialty channel of the Austrian national television, aired a four hour long, special programming on the meat and dairy industry and on the raising trend of vegetarianism; four documentaries that give an insight on the worldwide fivefold increase of meat consumption, the Austrian scenario of pork meat production, and the countertrend of vegetarians especially amongst the younger generations. In the overall a TV evening dedicated to informing the public on an extremely sensible topic, by covering a wide spectrum of animal and consumer welfare issues, and giving a look behind the scenes of what is a considered to be a bad business for everyone involved.
The first documentary, „Die neuen Vegetarier“ („The new vegetarians“), focuses on the increase of vegetarianism amongst the Austrian population. According to a study from 2013 of The Institute for Empirical Social Studies (IFES), 9% of the Austrian population follows a vegetarian diet, as the unacceptable conditions of intensive animal husbandry and the ecological consequences of this industry have started to become a concern for many Austrians. It is still a minority but the trend is increasing, especially amongst the young, educated, and aware people in the country. Various initiatives, such as the one of the German and French vegetarian associations, the so called „Meatless Monday“, are starting to rise across Europe to show how easy avoiding meat can be and how rich in variety the vegetarian kitchen is. Moreover the growing number of vegetarian restaurants is helping to solidify the trend; also star-chef Michael Hoffmann presents in his Berliner restaurant, Margaux, an amazing meatless, seven course menu. Many vegetable substitutes are now available in most supermarkets, such as soya, which is considered a true protein bomb and is currently used by Dutch researchers to create perfect substitutes for meat, which taste like meat.
On the other hand “Arme Sau” (“Poor pig”), the second documentary, exposes the consequences of pork meat consumption in Austria, as this tiny country detains the world record: 40 kg. per person each year. Pork meat has never been so cheap in Austrian supermarkets; one kilogram of schnitzel can cost less than a kilogram of champignons! What may seem as an incredible offer for the consumer is in reality a huge swindle, since farmers have to compromise on the quality in order to keep the prices low. Only fifteen years ago the pig farmers in Austria were 125.000, today there are merely 26.000. Can this meat still be considered healthy? And who is to blame for the animals’ misery? The farmers, the discounters, or the consumers?
But the problem is not only a local one, rather a global one, as the documentary “Nie wieder Fleisch” (“Never again meat”) of Jutta Pinzler shows. Over the past 50 years the consumption of meat has increased by five times and so have the problems related to this phenomenon: appalling living conditions, massive use of antibiotics, and improper slaughter of animals are just a few examples. And the repercussions of factory farming affect not only animals, but also humans: food import in African countries such as Ghana and Benin has destroyed local markets, health problems due to changes in the eating habits are drastically increasing in China, in Paraguay the feed export to Europe leads to extreme poverty, in France and Germany the groundwater is threatened by extensive farming, and globally the climate is affected by an industry which is not sustainable. Still producers try to convince us that meat is necessary for a balanced diet, whilst an enormous amount of studies indicate that from a medical point of view too much red meat is not healthy. Now also white meat has become problematic due to the widespread use of antibiotics in the production of poultry. The truth is that modern fattening farms are nowadays high-tech factories where the animals are considered only as products.
To end with “Die Milchlüge” (“The lie about milk”) stresses out the debated aspects of the consumption of raw milk products: is it good or is it bad? As a staple food, milk´s benefits especially for adults are highly controversial; many scientists state that diseases such as eczema, asthma or diabetes can be traced back to milk consumption, while others say it is an essential source of calcium. Nevertheless commercial slogans keep on selling us only the benefits and hiding the suffering of dairy cows. In this scenario the Germans are the world leaders in the consumption of dairy products: we are talking about an average of 85 kilos of cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese or milk per person every year.
Four hours of impressing information that will hopefully make an impact on consumers, who have the power to change this industry. Three of the four documentaries will be available online, in German language, for the next seven days only, at the following links:
- ORF-III-Themenmontag: Die neuen Vegetarier
- ORF-III-Themenmontag: Nie wieder Fleisch
- ORF-III-Themenmontag: Die Milchlüge
Mag.iur. Martina Pluda, LLB.oec.
Coordination of Communication
Master in Animal Law and Society