It sounds like a nonsense story from a British tabloid, but a European Parliament committee this week voted to stop meat-free products using names like ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’.

The curious decision – backed by just 25 members of the EU Parliament’s Agriculture Committee – is not binding, but campaigners say it sends the wrong message when climate and health experts agree we should be reducing the amount of meat we consume.

Under the proposals non-animal products would be banned from using names including ‘steak’, ‘burger’, ‘cheese’ and ‘milk’.

Agricultural lobbyists argue that consumers are confused by terms such as ‘veggie burger’ or ‘vegan sausage’.

Harriet Bradley, policy officer at Birdlife Europe said MEPs on the committee were “enslaved to the intensive farm lobby”.

Bradley told META:

“I love all kinds of burgers – Veggie, vegan, and even sometimes beef! – there’s no reason for MEPs to push this ridiculous proposal, which is a gift to the eurosceptics, stifles consumer freedom and totally ignores what our health and climate demand.”

This summer a chain of British bakeries scored a surprise hit by launching a ‘vegan sausage roll’. Greggs’ annual sales topped £1 bn for the first time after national press coverage saw the snack flying off the shelves.

The heat around the warm treat reached a high-point in January when social media users believed anti-EU demonstrators had taken a detour to protest against the new product.

While vegetarian and vegan options have often been considered as more healthy alternatives to meat-heavy diets, there is growing awareness of the impact meat has on the climate and environment.

The meat industry’s impact on the climate is immense. Last year a report revealed that meat and dairy companies are set to surpass the oil industry as the world’s biggest polluters.

Scientists have made repeated warnings on the need to reduce meat consumption and they have calculated that the production of beef, chicken and pork emits more greenhouses gases than all forms of global transportation.

Animal agriculture is also a major source of emissions of harmful air pollution, with farming having been described as ‘the single biggest’ cause of the worst air pollution in Europe according to research by scientists from Columbia University.

Eagle-eyed consumers may have noticed that soya ‘milk’ has already disappeared from European shelves after a decision by the EU courts. The popular dairy-free alternative is now often sold as ‘Soya drink’.

This week’s ‘sausage roll’ vote was one of several that took place in the Agriculture committee on the future of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Nearly €60 billion of EU taxpayers’ money is currently spent on the CAP every year, most of which subsidises industrial farming.

Campaigners have long lambasted the policy for supporting a farming model based on growing huge amounts of crops to feed animals raised in cramp conditions for the ever-growing export market, which they say contributes to the destruction of nature on farmland and the current climate crisis.

Every seven years, there is a chance to change the CAP, and in June 2018 the European Commission published its reform proposal for 2021 to 2027 which was slammed by both environmental groups – who warned it sets the stage for a ‘race to the bottom’ on ecological farm standards – and the EU’s own financial watchdog – who said it didn’t contain a workable approach to monitoring farm practices to ensure these green goals are met.

After this week’s votes in the Agriculture committee, Bérénice Dupeux, Agriculture Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), criticised the MEPs for pushing for CAP income support payments to no longer be subject to the respect of certain minimum environmental standards and for farmers to be given extra financial support if they do meet these standards  – which have until now farmers have had to meet in order to receive CAP support.

Dupeux said:

Rather than heed the repeated warnings issued by scientists on the need to significantly reduce meat consumption to avoid dangerous climate breakdown, and citizens’ demands for higher environmental ambition in farm policies, MEPs on the European Parliament’s Agriculture committee have shockingly voted to make an already highly questionable Commission proposal even worse by supporting putting even more public money into the intensive agriculture sector unchecked.”

She added that “next month’s change of Parliament and Commission is a chance to change direction on how we farm in Europe and put our framers on track for an agroecological transition”.

Over 135,000 people have signed an EU-wide petition demanding a rethink of how we grow, share and consume our food and an end to the current system of EU subsidies which heavily support damaging intensive agriculture.