Last week (18th July), the UK Government dropped yet another pledge on farmed animal welfare. Despite promising a consultation on mandatory animal welfare labelling, frustratingly Defra has now said they no longer see this as a priority.
Last year, the Government announced that, in 2023, it would consult on mandatory animal welfare labelling, following a ‘Call for Evidence’ in 2021. As experts in the field, we provided evidence about the benefits of mandatory method of production labelling for farm animals, consumers and higher-welfare farmers. This was submitted along with over 84,000 signatures from Compassion supporters who joined us in demanding Honest Labelling.
Then, last week, after a long period of silence on the issue from Defra, we received an update, stating that, despite the “public appetite for improved welfare labelling” they “do not consider the time is right” to consult on this issue.
Current labelling of meat and dairy products is unclear and misleading. Many labels show idyllic animal and farmyard images accompanied by phrases like ‘farm fresh’ or ‘all natural’, but animals raised to produce these products have often spent their lives in factory farms.
Although around 70% of UK farm animals are reared in intensive systems, there is currently no law requiring food labels to say how an animal has been raised – except for whole hens’ eggs. Consumers simply don’t have the information they need to avoid factory farmed products and this needs to change.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Government’s decision to abandon their commitment to introducing a mandatory scheme,” said James West, our Chief Public Affairs Manager. “This disgraceful U-turn could leave shoppers in the dark and animals suffering behind vague, even misleading food labels.
“For years, we have called for meat and dairy products to be labelled, like eggs, by method of production – helping shoppers make informed choices. Since 2004, eggs have been labelled to state how hens are house and now, the majority of the UK’s hens live cage-free. So, extending welfare labelling could be a huge step towards transforming the lives of millions of animals.
“This is yet another broken promise and it’s simply not good enough. If not now, when is the right time to introduce animal welfare labelling?”
Please tell the Secretary of State at Defra to reinstate the promised consultation on honest food labelling.