25,000 demonstrate against agricultural industry in Berlin

Author: Karin Heinze

Source: Presseinformationen BÖLW, meine Landwirtschaft, Brot für die Welt

For the third year in a row, tens of thousands of people from all over Germany went onto the streets in the capital at the start of International Green Week on Saturday 19.1.2013. The broad alliance of farmers, environmental and nature conservation associations, church organizations and other groups motivated even more people than in previous years to take part in the mass demo. 25,000 demonstrators protested against cruelty to animals, agri-business and all its consequences and demanded reforms by the government that would lead to an ecologically beneficial and socially responsible form of agriculture. (Picture: When will our government finally react?)
(All pictures Jan Ganschow und Volker Gehrmann/Good Food Good Farming )


The motto: “We’ve had enough! Good food. Good agriculture. Now!” once again brought together the most varied of groups. Farmers, beekeepers, vegetarians, politicians – a motley cross-section of citizens, some sporting imaginative costumes, marched holding banners aloft from the main railway station in Berlin through the government district to the office of the Federal Chancellor. 70 tractors and beekeepers’ vehicles from across Germany accompanied the protest. The concern shared by everyone present and the appeal was not to put the interests of agri-business at the heart of politics but to prioritize the interests of consumers and farmers, animals, nature conservation and environmental protection. (Picture: the protest is diverse and colourful)

 “We’ve had enough of agro-industry! exclaimed Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein (picture), the chairman of the Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (Association of Producers, Processors and Marketers of Organic Food), to the people at the rally prior to the demonstration. “Let us join together in demanding a total change of direction regarding food!” said Löwenstein. “Renounce industrial livestock farming that treats animals as if they were objects in a production process. We demand responsible treatment of our fellow creatures! Renounce industrial agriculture that consumes resources and damages the environment. We demand the sustainable use of resources like land, water and biodiversity, that constitute the basis of our food supply! Renounce industrialized food that seems to be cheap but which in fact gives rise to huge costs because of the destruction of the environment, biodiversity and the climate. We demand food that deserves the name and whose price expresses the ecological truth!”

Chants like “If you persecute farmers, animals and bees, you won’t become MPs!” was how the demonstrators gave voice to their rejection of the current trend to an ever more powerful industrialization of agriculture. The demonstrators’ banners expressed their condemnation of, among other things, factory farming, environmental damage caused by toxic pesticides, the rising price pressure on producers and the negative impact on small-scale agriculture in the countries in the south. Through their protest, the citizens of Germany made it abundantly clear that they think a change of course in agricultural policy is long overdue.

Löwenstein called for politicians to state unequivocally where they stand on the future of agriculture: “In view of the massive problems, for us it is abundantly clear that that we need a system of agriculture that is founded on ecology and farmers, not an agro-industry that operates in the interests of the world market and exports.” He explained that this was why the EU must no longer use the scattergun approach to the billions in its budget for the support of agriculture and hand out funds indiscriminately to all and sundry. The much better approach was to target taxpayers’ money at measures that lead to ecological and social benefit, for which the market does not reward farmers. “Our Minister of Agriculture, Ilse Aigner, must do her utmost in Brussels to bring about a sea-change in food policy and ensure that the reform of agricultural policy incorporates the greening strategy advocated by EU Commissioner Ciolos,” demanded Löwenstein with reference to the emerging watering-down of the Ciolos proposal that would result merely in greenwashing instead of the greening of agricultural practice in Europe.

“In spite of milk strikes in the past and several demonstrations in Brussels, the situation of dairy farmers has not improved,” said Johanna Böse-Hartje from the Bundesverband der Deutschen Milchviehhalter (Association of German Dairy Farmers). “Politicians are adopting the approach of liberalization, the path to the destruction of farms across the world. The broad alliance that is standing here today is proof that our demands for market regulation and a revision of agricultural policy have had a positive impact in our society. Only if farmers and citizens stand up together for reform of agricultural policy can we keep our farms operating and ensure that at long last we produce healthy food under conditions of fairness.”

The church aid organizations Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) and Misereor drew attention to the repercussions of EU agricultural policy on developing and emerging countries. “Current European agricultural policy threatens the livelihoods of many farming families in poor countries. Raising our agricultural production and the volume of our exports does not alleviate hunger. In fact, the opposite is the case,” declared Klaus Seitz, the head of policy at Brot für die Welt - a collective Christian voice urging change and development. He emphasized the point that every eighth person in the world goes hungry, even though there is more than enough food available for everybody. In his words: “We’ve had enough of a situation that means other people starve. We’ve had enough of a situation that means the fruits of agricultural labour don’t benefit the whole of humanity.” He reminded people of the downside of Germany’s exporting success: “More than 17 million hectares are being used abroad just to cover the demand for soya needed for milk and meat production – to the detriment of local food production and of nature.” 

Further information - pictures of the demonstration will follow shortly – is available on the internet at: www.wir-haben-es-satt.de



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