BVA backs mandatory animal welfare labels for UK foods

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has called for the introduction of a mandatory method of welfare-based production food labelling, arguing that this could offer UK food producers and farmers a unique post-Brexit selling point by providing consumers with the clear welfare labelling they want.

Speaking at the start of British Food Fortnight, the BVA said the move would help consumers across the UK to answer the following simple questions:

  • How was this animal kept?
  • Did this animal die a humane death?

“Legislation for a mandatory method of production labelling has been implemented already for shell eggs, which must legally be labelled either as ‘eggs from caged hens’, ‘barn eggs’, ‘free range’ or ‘organic’,” said BVA, adding that it wanted to see the same principle extended to meat and dairy products from other farmed animals.

The association also quoted survey “evidence” showing that consumers in the UK and across Europe want clear food labelling with information about animal welfare, as follows:

  • The majority of European consumers are confused by current labelling and are often unable to tell what the welfare standards are for animals used in the product, according to European Product Labels Research commissioned by Labelling Matters.
  • 80% of EU consumers want labelling that clearly shows which farm system was used to produce their meat and dairy product.
  • 94% of vets believe UK consumers of meat and fish should be better informed about slaughter methods, BVA’s own Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey found.
  • A study of 13,500 meat consumers across 27 EU Member States found that 72% want information about the stunning of animals when buying meat.

“For vets it’s a top priority that the animals we rear for food have a good life and a humane death,” said BVA president, Sean Wensley.

“Mandatory method of production labelling makes sense on a number of fronts as consumers can be clearly and consistently informed about how the animals reared for their meat and dairy products were kept, with on-farm welfare assessments assuring high standards.

“Mandatory method of production labelling would also give unambiguous information to the high numbers of consumers who care about animal welfare when buying meat and dairy products and help ensure market support for British farmers who pride themselves on achieving the highest welfare standards.”

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