Religious leaders have been dragged into the centre of a new controversial debate about industrial agriculture and animal welfare in Germany. The controversy comes following a call by the main farmers group in Lower Saxony, Landvolk Niedersachsen, for its members to report priests who speak critically of industrial agriculture.
Earlier this month, the Landvolk called on its members to report – ‘melden’ – priests who speak critically of industrial agriculture. The impetus came after a Thanksgiving service during which clergymen asked the question to whom one should be grateful at harvest in light of the “dubious and inferior products” produced by industrial agriculture.
According to the Landvolk, another priest is said to have spoken against the “misrepresentation of PETA” during his sermon. For a long time, the animal rights group PETA has been a thorn in the side of industrial agriculture, whose video documentaries repeatedly focus on animal cruelty in poultry farming. Spokesperson on agriculture for the German Greens, Christian Meyer, called for the Landvolk to “end this attempt to intimidate church representatives, and apologize to the concerned ministers and priests immediately.” The MP also called on the state government to end its cooperation with the Landvolk, such as in schools. Meyer urged such a one-sided whitewash to be stopped.
Elsewhere, the Landvolk has asked people to notify the Ministry of Education “if you find a text with a problematic representation of modern agriculture, for example in the textbooks of your children.” The Green Party has criticized the attempt to remove the “negative portrayal” of industrial agriculture in textbooks and in worship. Furthermore, Christian Meyer has insisted that environmental and animal welfare organisations must be allowed access to schools.
Martin Schulz, Leader of AbL, Lower Saxony’s Small Farmers Association, has sharply criticised the Landvolk’s action, describing it as a clear sign that the their leaders no longer feel confident in debating controversial industrial farming at the local level. He added that people would associate Landvolk‘s action with denunciation and intimidation tactics. According to Schulz, few farmers are likely to participate in such a campaign as it would further damage the reputation of agriculture. He is calling upon Germany’s Bishop not to get involved, but rather to initiate a wide consultation process among church communities on two topics: ‘animal husbandary’ and ‘family farms, not factories’. He concluded that the position paper of the Lutheran church of Hannover would serve as a perfect base for such a process.
Find the story in German here: