Germany pushes for animal welfare levy after abattoir scandal

FILE PHOTO: German Minister for Food and Agriculture Julia Kloeckner listens during a news conference on the mobile communication summit in Berlin, Germany June 16, 2020. John Macdougall/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany is making progress towards introducing an animal welfare levy, Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said after talks on Friday on cleaning up the meat trade, which is in the spotlight following an outbreak of the coronavirus at an abattoir.

The outbreak at the meat processing plant near Guetersloh has landed more than 600,000 people back in lockdown and raised a debate about standards in Germany’s food industry and its reliance on migrant labour, particularly from Romania.

Declaring that meat should not be an “everyday junk food”, Kloecker said “attempts are being made to lure consumers with dumping prices” for meat and sausages, and that the price pressures fed down to livestock owners.

“That’s why we believe an animal welfare levy is necessary,” she told a news conference after meeting representatives of the meat industry, retail sector and consumer associations.

“We come further than ever before,” she said of efforts to forge a consensus on a levy, the revenue from which would be used to improve the living conditions of animals for slaughter.

A ban on selling meat products below cost must be enforced by the authorities and possibly tightened, Kloeckner said. She aimed to counter the risk of driving meat processing abroad by pushing for European animal welfare labelling on meat goods.

Reporting by Paul Carrel and Matthias Inverardi; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise