Animal Welfare Labelling

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Animal Welfare Labelling is a generic term which stands for schemes put in place to provide consumer information on welfare standards applied in the production of food of animal origin.

Purpose[edit]

Animal welfare labels inform the consumer about the conditions applied in the production of meat, eggs and dairy products where these exceed the standard that is legally required. As a policy it is an animal welfare policy. Its allocated place is between agricultural policy and food labelling. Although linked to the overall theme of sustainability, animal welfare labels are, however, not the to be confused with ecolabels. Claims about animal welfare are commercial communications that inform the consumer (and also commercial purchasers in the supply chain) about the welfare conditions under which a farm animal has been raised. Animal welfare statements essentially carry the message that the way farm animals have been reared, transported and slaughtered exceeds the animal welfare standards required by law.

Reasoning[edit]

There is both an ethical and a commercial element to this. The ethical factor is the wellbeing of the animal. The commercial factor is the upstream market product that is produced observing enhanced welfare standards. Examples are Label Rouge in France (also see Freedom Ranger chickens),[1] Beter Leven] in the Netherlands,[2] in Sweden and [3] in the United Kingdom.

Consumer response and Concerns[edit]

Welfare products are attracting a growing number of welfare-conscious consumers. However, there is potential for consumers to be might be misled by false, exaggerated or unsubstantiated statements about the welfare standards observed in the rearing of farm animals. The lack of legal recognition of animal welfare labels in most countries, as well as the multitude of private labels and government-sponsored schemes and the resulting lack of transparency and comparability, make animal welfare labelling vulnerable to abuse. Without comparable data on the welfare of farm animals it is difficult to ascertain, and to compare claims made about, a product’s production method.

Initiatives undertaken by the Global Food Safety Initiative[4]issue guidance on the topic. For Europe, the Animal Welfare Strategy 2012-2015[5](COM(2012) 6 final of 19 January 2012) provides impetus for further developments.