More than 80% of the animals raised in the EU each year are factory farmed. These inhumane farming practices are hidden behind closed doors, out of the public view. Consumers want to be able to choose foods that are better for animal welfare. Manufacturers and supermarkets are increasingly exploiting our interest in animal welfare to sell their products with misleading labels. Food labels are an important way of ensuring consumers can make informed choices about what they eat. Compulsory labelling can also help to raise standards of farm animal welfare, egg labels are a great example of this.
Campaign for better food labelling
We are campaigning for method of production labelling, in partnership with Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). Together we are working across the EU to demand change.We’re calling for labelling on all animal produce and ingredients in the EU and we want the labels to be simple and clear and to convey the chief characteristic of the production system. This will give consumers the information they most want to know: ‘how was this animal kept?’
Case study: How EU egg labelling laws improved the lives of millions of chickens
In 2004 the EU introduced mandatory method of production labelling on shell eggs. Since then all eggs produced in the EU have been labelled, by law, as either 'eggs from caged hens', 'barn eggs' or 'free range'. Egg labelling was successful because eggs from intensive systems had to be labelled too, so consumers had the full picture. This is an excellent example of how clear and simple method of production labelling can work. Since this labelling came into place in 2004, production, in the UK alone, of cage-free eggs has increased from 31% in 2003 to 51% in 2011.
Labels already exist to indicate high levels of animal welfare. The Soil Association symbol on a product indicates it has been certified to rigorous organic standards. Compassion in World Farming state "Organic provides the highest potential standards of animal welfare" and rank the Soil Association as the assurance scheme offering the highest level of animal welfare potential when it comes to meat, dairy and fish products.* An organic chicken will have lots of indoor space and access to outdoor space, Soil Association organic rules do not allow more than six birds per square metre indoors. Find out more about the standards for organic chickens.
Unfortunately lower animal welfare products are not labelled as such, leaving the consumer unaware of how the animal was kept. To provide transparent information to consumers, food from all animals should be labelled to show the consumer how the animal was raised.
*Compassion in World Farming's 2012 report 'Farm Assurance Schemes & Animal Welfare: How the standards compare'