This policy brief contains three main proposals: First, financial aid is needed to implement the logistical changes and to compensate and incentivize farmers who move from an intensive to an extensive agricultural model. Second, food prices need to reflect the negative externalities, while an overall paradigm shift is needed in the treatment of living beings, not seeing them as mere commodities, subordinating them to norms of efficiency and competition. Third, it proposes the vegetarianization of food supplies, starting with public catering, and the creation of linked educational programs to encourage a healthy diet.
1 — Targeted financial aid is urgently needed to implement the necessary logistical changes and to remunerate farmers and agricultural workers who practice, for example, agroecology or agroforestry and thus maintain ecosystem services or contribute to the preservation of landscapes. This instrument allows for an agricultural model change, which simultaneously enables to provide quality food to consumers. This also applies to farmers wishing to switch to a farming model that is more respectful of animal welfare. Concretely, this could take the form of an ecological transition income (Swaton, 2018; cf. also Pelluchon 2019). This system differs from the universal basic income since it is conditional: It offers logistical and financial assistance to individuals and groups with a project with high added social and ecological value, allowing them to receive training but also network opportunities to find economic outlets. This system, which supports people wishing to change their job into a socially and ecologically useful activity or to change their production model, is perfectly suited for agriculture and livestock farming. It can therefore help farmers to develop organic farming, permaculture, or agroforestry, which require significant knowledge and time before they can be economically viable. It could also help farmers to make all the necessary restructuring in order to offer their animals decent living conditions, moving from the intensive model and building farms to free- range farms. It also revalorizes the profession of agricultural worker in general, creating spaces also for young people to contribute societal value. The recipients who are eligible for this program receive financial aid, giving them time to make the necessary adjustments and to organize business structures, granting the support necessary for the feasibility of their projects and its insertion into an economic and social fabric. The ecological transition income has attracted several regions in France but also some developing countries such as Burkina Faso.
Another important measure is the establishment of a complementary income for farmers whose mission is not only to produce quality food, but also to maintain landscape and ecosystem services, opting for an ecosystem-based agriculture that respects the soil and ecosystems (Pelluchon, 2017; 2021). This monthly supplement in the form of a stipend would allow farmers who abandon an intensive production model to earn a living and be paid in a decent way, taking into account the role of ecosystem services that are part of the meaning of agriculture as well as the composition of landscapes. This would also prevent them from excessively increasing their products’ prices and thus allow for passing on this change of model to the consumer. To a certain extent, remunerating farmers for maintaining landscapes and ecosystem services is in line with the concept of payments for ecosystem services, as implemented in Costa Rica and other countries (WBGU, 2021).
2 — Moreover, it is necessary that food prices reflect negative externalities such as the carbon footprint stemming from energy consumption, methane emissions and transportation, and the consequences of the mode of production. This measure will lead to a fair price, while under current conditions meat from industrial farms, sometimes having crossed eight countries before landing on the consumer's plate, is cheaper than regional and organic food.
This insistence on negative externalities which have to be taken into account in the price of products must lead to a re-discussion of the terms of trade treaties and economic partnership agreements that do not sufficiently take into account environmental standards and animal welfare. The G7 and the EU should build alliances and push for global trade rules promoting policy coherence with sustainable food systems and climate policy.
In general, food products can no longer be considered as commodities nor traded like cell phones in a market subject to unbridled competition. Since agriculture has a social role, linked to people's knowledge and know- how, and because it has an impact on the health of soils and ecosystems and, of course, on human health, it must be considered as a care activity. Thus, agriculture and animal husbandry, which are relationships with living beings, cannot be subject to the same rules as the production of manufactured goods. Their efficiency and performance must be measured according to their meaning and the value of the beings involved (Pelluchon, 2019). On the contrary, when these activities are completely subordinated to the law of the market, not only the industrial model is victorious. Moreover, the agricultural sector ends up with food safety scandals, or farmers are forced to systematic overproduction, resulting in excessive food waste as well as export of the European surplus at low prices, for instance towards African countries, ruining their agriculture and local breeding (De Schutter, 2014). Already Amartya Sen (1989) had pointed out that hunger and malnutrition do not exist due to a shortage of food but are a matter of justice. Furthermore, it is advisable to withdraw certain basic foods (cereals, wheat, etc.) from speculation in order to prevent populations from starving, as has been observed for instance in 2008 with hunger riots in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mexico, Bolivia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries.
3 — Finally, it is essential to promote a plant-based diet in public catering. As a consequence, citizens from an early age can learn to enjoy eating healthy food and reduce their consumption of animal products. In restaurants, supermarkets and the upstream supply chains, a considerable effort must also be made to diversify the food offer and to allow for the distribution of plant-based dishes. Finally, a food education program including dietary knowledge and cooking classes must be offered in early childhood education, in schools, universities, and throughout life–in the context of lifelong learning programs. Such food education programs will effectively support the individual and collective efforts to reduce the consumption of animal products, to reduce our carbon and ecological footprint, to support local production of quality food, and to rediscover the meaning of the daily act of eating. The latter is not reduced to a food intake. Its emotional, ethical and economic dimension deserves to be placed at the heart of any food policy. Our way of feeding ourselves and incorporating food testifies to our relationship to others and to ourselves, to our capacity to make room for them in our lives. For this reason, it is the paradigm of a philosophy which underlines our being-with-the-world-and-with-others, human and non-human.