The Vegan Society welcomes European Parliament’s rejection of ban on ‘dairy words’

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» The Vegan Society welcomes European Parliament’s rejection of ban on ‘dairy words’

The Vegan Society is pleased with the European Parliament’s decision to reject a ban – meaning that ‘dairy’ words such as ‘creamy’ or phrases like ‘alternative to’ will remain legal on plant-based milks, yoghurts, cheese and butter.

In February, the society alongside 21 international NGOs including WWF, Greenpeace, Food Watch and Compassion in World Farming, signed an open letter, calling on the European Parliament to dismiss the ban and instead, encourage a shift towards more plant-based diets.

As with October’s 'meat' terms ruling, which failed to provide evidence that consumers were mistaking veggie burgers or vegan sausages for meat, there has never been any indication that people feel mislead by dairy alternatives.

Like with meat alternatives, where farmers and meat lobbyists accused the plant-based business sector of ‘cultural hijacking’, the society strongly believes it is only the dairy industry that insists consumers are confusing their usual milk choices for plant-based alternatives – despite the fact there are no facts or figures to prove this is the case. 

A ruling in favour of the ban would have restricted producers of plant-based alternatives from discussing the environmental advantages of their products by comparing them to traditional dairy products. In doing so it would have introduced a barrier, making it more difficult for businesses and consumers to transition towards a climate friendly food system.

The Vegan Society acknowledges that if the ruling had gone the other way it could have had a detrimental effect on food manufacturers, especially smaller ones, who may have been forced to spend thousands of pounds to redesign their packaging as it could become illegal for plant-based milks and yoghurts to use the same cartons and pots as regular dairy products. 

It is already the case that you can’t market ‘soya milk’ but only ‘soya drink’, and whilst the marketing of ‘vegan cheese’ remains illegal, brands use ‘vegan block’, or ‘vegan wedge’ to convey their message. Yet this hasn’t impacted the plant-based ‘dairy’ market, plant-based milk (up 107%) and plant-based cheese (up 165%) both showed triple digit sales growth between 2018 and 2020. The value of which is set to more than double from £226 million to £497 million between 2019-2025.

Louise Davies, Head of Campaigns, Policy and Research at The Vegan Society said: “We are pleased with the European Parliament’s decision. Now is not the time to be restricting the plant-based business sector."

“This was simply an attempt by the dairy industry to hold back the rise of the vegan movement and would have done absolutely nothing to support consumer understanding, instead it would have had a hugely negative impact on plant-based businesses, brands and manufacturers.”

There were initially concerns that, should the European Parliament bring in the amendments, the government here would follow suit in order to make imports and exports transition smoother.

With scientific consensus confirming that plant-based diets are on the whole better for the environment, governments need to be encouraging consumption of plant-based foods and supporting brands in this area.

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