Improve animal welfare, protect employees

The majority of economists support government intervention in the meat industry. They are divided over the question of whether working conditions should be regulated uniformly at EU level.

08/04/2020 · Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Raumwissenschaften · ifo Institut Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung an der Universität München e. V. · News · Forschungsergebnis

Economists at German universities consider government intervention in the meat market to be necessary, especially stricter regulation of animal welfare. These are the findings of the ifo-FAZ Economists Panel. Of the 123 professors who took part, 85 percent are in favor of tougher animal welfare regulations in the meat industry, while 72 percent support worker protection rules.

Generally, the economists are in favor of concrete measures to improve animal welfare, such as more space per animal, stricter controls on existing rules, and tougher penalties for violations. Just 19 percent consider the animal welfare tax proposed by Germany’s Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Julia Klöckner, to be a good idea. A ban on price advertising, which Klöckner is also considering, is supported by only 3 percent of the panelists. “Despite the appalling conditions in the meat industry, we should first of all examine to what extent the abuses can be combated by vigorously enforcing the existing legal regulations before we resort to frantic, overly hasty legislative and regulatory action,” explains Michael Ahlheim, University of Hohenheim.

Regarding ways to improve working conditions, 69 percent of those surveyed believe stronger state controls to be most effective. This is followed by regulation of subcontractors, better medical supervision and care for workers, higher minimum standards for occupational health and safety, and higher minimum standards for worker accommodation. Only a minority (25 percent) find the prohibition of fixed-term contracts to be a good idea.

Economists are divided on the question of whether working conditions in the meat industry should be uniformly regulated at the EU level. A full 59 percent are in favor of reducing EU subsidies for the meat industry. “A good reason for supporting meat industry subsidies would be positive external effects,” says Niklas Potrafke, Director of the ifo Center for Public Finance and Political Economy. He goes on to add, “However, the meat industry does not generate any positive external effects – in fact, the opposite is true.”

A majority of the panel argues for integrating the meat industry into Europe’s CO2 certificate trading. Up to now, greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture have been a matter for individual member states. Half the panel participants can also envision a carbon tax on meat products. Its level could be based on the distance the product has traveled on the world market.

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