By Joshua Robinson –
According to the RSPCA, consumers are being denied the chance to make informed choices about the food they eat, and the UK Government must now act by introducing mandatory labelling on all animal products.
The charity’s Change Starts With The Choice campaign aims to see mandatory labels on meat and dairy products, providing transparency for the public on how the animals have been reared.
The UK Government recently abandoned plans for a consultation on this issue, so the RSPCA is now urging decision-makers to make good on their promises and launch a consultation into this vital issue.
Residents across East, North, South and West Yorkshire, as well as North Lincolnshire, can support this campaign by lobbying their MP to show their support for labelling, including on processed foods and ingredients.
A new survey carried out by the RSPCA found that more than four out of five (84%) people in Yorkshire and Humberside think having a level of knowledge about the condition the animals have been reared and kept in is important when purchasing products.
The survey also found that 81% of people in the region believe they can improve animal welfare through purchasing habits.
In addition, 63% of the region’s population would only buy higher welfare options if there was clearer labelling on products.
However, most animal products in the food industry are not currently required to have mandatory labelling that indicates how the animal was reared. This means that people can’t make informed decisions about what to buy and struggle to know whether farm animals have had a good, or better, life.
David Bowles, the RSPCA’s head of public affairs, said: “Currently there is little information available to consumers to show them how farm animals have been reared. Instead, the public can be shown images of rolling green hills and animals in the sunshine which can be incredibly misleading and not reflective of reality in many cases. This is especially true of intensive farming practices which still account for around 70% of all land farming in the UK.”
The RSPCA believes improved labelling should also apply to imported products which would help to safeguard and differentiate British farmers against low welfare imports which could flood supermarket shelves as a result of recent trade agreements including, most recently, a new UK deal with the Trans-Pacific trade bloc.
David Bowles added: “No one wants to unwittingly contribute to low animal welfare, and support practices that they don’t agree with. The public has a right to clear and consistent labelling so they can make an informed choice about the products they buy – including produce imported from abroad.”
“Positively, there is support for mandatory labelling not only from consumers but from the retailers selling the products and the farmers who are committed to higher welfare farming practices and deserve to have that commitment recognised; so the time has clearly come for the UK Government to act.”
Despite a cost of living crisis, the survey also revealed that 54% of people in Yorkshire and Humberside would still pay more for food with clear labelling on how the animal was reared – higher than the UK average (53%). Indicating the importance to consumers that they can buy products from animals that have been cared for to higher welfare standards, such as RSPCA Assured labelled products.
Currently, the method of production labelling is only available on shell eggs with terms such as ‘free-range’, ‘barn’ or ‘caged hens’ now becoming important indicators for consumers on which eggs to buy. Since this was introduced in 2004, there has been an increase in sales of cage-free eggs from around 30% up to 60% of products sold.
David added: “Consumer buying behaviour with eggs proves that, given the choice, the public want to purchase higher welfare food. It is therefore long overdue that labelling is extended to all animal products.”
“We want to see decision-makers commit to introducing mandatory method of production labelling on all animal products. And we are urging the UK Government to launch a consultation on this issue as a first step to ensure everyone’s voices are heard and real change can happen.”
Kate Parkes, farm animal welfare expert at the RSPCA, added: “Many millions of animals are farmed in the UK and the lives of these animals, and the conditions they experience, can vary greatly.”
“A laying hen in a so-called enriched cage and allocated little more usable space than an A4 sheet of paper is going to have a very different life to that of a free-range hen and similarly, a pig that is kept on a fully slatted floor without bedding and little to keep them occupied will have a very different experience to one that is given plenty of bedding and material like straw, or one that has access to the outdoors. We think consumers want and deserve to know the difference – and this new poll shows many want to buy higher welfare when given this information.”
Kat Parkes said: “As such, we believe labelling products to demonstrate how an animal has been reared and the conditions they have been kept in would create even more demand for higher welfare products. This, in turn, would drive up farm animal welfare standards in the UK having a direct, and significant, impact on the lives of millions of animals.”
Supporters can join the RSPCA’s call for mandatory food labelling across all animal products and pressure their MP to propose mandatory labelling in Parliament. By doing so, the public can ensure greater farm animal welfare and trust the labels on the animal products in their shopping basket.
To support the campaign, visit: https://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/labelling
If you can trust the label, you can trust your choices – #BetterLabelsBetterChoices.
More information on the RSPCA’s higher welfare standards for farm animals is available here.
To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming animals in need of care, please visit their website or call their donation line on 0300 123 8181.