Currently, one third of the world’s cereal crop goes to feed the 70 billion farm animals reared every year to produce meat, eggs and dairy products – the majority of them on factory farms.
With increasing strain on the world’s natural resources and millions of people unable to feed themselves, we think it’s unsustainable and morally questionable to continue rearing so many farm animals in such intensive systems and feeding them crops which could be used for human needs.
Not only that, factory farming produces large amounts of waste (often polluting local water sources) and increases the risk of spreading animal disease.
Eat higher welfare
Higher welfare animal products cause less animal suffering. Buying them will encourage investment in higher welfare farming which is smaller scale and poses fewer risks to animals, people and the planet.
Eating less meat, dairy and eggs reduces the environmental impact of animal farming and improves human health.
Most people in the west eat more protein than they need. The saturated fat in many meat and dairy products can be harmful to good health and may contribute to obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Global cancer experts say red meat can be a factor in certain cancers and that processed meats should be avoided.
Farm animal production is responsible for at least 14% of the greenhouse gases we produce. Another good reason for eating less.
Meat and dairy production also use huge amounts of cereals and soya grown for animal feed and, that most precious and increasingly scarce global resource, water. As Dr Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said, "Please eat less meat. Meat is a very carbon-intensive commodity."
Eating less and eating only higher welfare products is a positive step which Compassion encourages you to make.
Compassion is a founder member and on the Management Committee of an alliance called “Eating Better for a Fair, Green, Healthy Future”, which calls on people and governments to promote reduced meat consumption and eating only higher welfare meat, i.e. less and better meat.
Cutting out meat or all animal products is obviously a fantastic way to reduce animal suffering and the impact animal production has on the environment. However, if you choose to be a veggie remember to look for higher welfare dairy and egg products.
If you have taken the vegetarian or vegan route, or are looking for alternative ideas to help reduce your meat consumption, you can enjoy a whole new raft of foods and recipes... visit www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/ to expand your repertoire.
We are campaigning for clear food labelling that shows method of production - in which sort of system the animal was farmed.
Food labelling should and can be simple but is often made to be quite confusing. Across food products there are so many different codes, labels and standards that it can be difficult to know what the label means for animal welfare. Labels may say ‘farm assured’, ‘locally sourced’, ‘farm fresh’ – but none of these really guarantee animals have been reared in higher welfare systems.
So here’s a quick guide of some of the things to look out for on your label:
Hens’ eggs (Grade A) must, by law, carry a stamp with a number indicating whether they have been produced in an organic, free-range, barn or cage system. The egg boxes must clearly state: 'eggs from caged hens', 'barn eggs' or 'free range'.
Any other grade of hens’ egg or other egg products (e.g. liquid egg and eggs as ingredients in other food products) are still not required to be labelled by law. Eggs laid by other species of poultry (e.g. ducks, quail or geese) are not required to be labelled either.
Country of Origin
Country of origin appears on the label of some food products. In the EU, it is a legal requirement to label beef and veal by the country where the animal was born, the country of fattening and the country of slaughter.
It is also a legal requirement to label the country of fattening and the country of slaughter on fresh or frozen meat from pigs, sheep and poultry.
It would be more helpful if the label also had to show the country where the animal was born, as is the case for beef and veal, it will indicate to some extent whether there has been long distance live animal transport, the length of the food chain and the number of different countries involved.
Quality Assurance Standards
Minimum standards for the protection of laying hens, meat chickens, pigs, and calves are set by EU legislation and certain EU member states, including the UK, have improved upon them in their national legislation. A framework of quality assurance standards should ensure these minimum requirements are maintained, offer protection for those animals that are not covered by legislation (for example turkeys, ducks, dairy cows, beef cattle and sheep), and in some cases ensure higher standards for welfare are provided.
Below are some examples of Quality Assurance standards in the UK and what they mean for animal welfare.
Soil Association is one of the organic standards which offer many welfare benefits exceeding standard industry practice, including prohibiting confinement systems, ensuring bedding and/or environmental enrichment, ensuring free-range access with shade and shelter, specifying stunning and slaughter practices and monitoring welfare through outcome measures. Again, we recommend you look out for this logo when shopping or eating out.
RPSCA Assured is the RSPCA's labelling and assurance scheme dedicated to improving welfare standards for farm animals. The standards offer a number of welfare benefits relative to standard industry practice and we recommend you look out for this logo when shopping or eating out. The scheme covers both indoor and outdoor rearing systems and ensures that greater space, bedding and enrichment materials are provided. In addition, on-farm health and welfare monitoring is required and stunning and slaughter processes are specified. Encouragingly, RSPCA Assured has a reach of 30% of UK pig production and is looking to expand.
The Red Tractor scheme, run by Assured Food Standards, certifies the food was produced in Britain and to certain quality standards for food safety, hygiene, and the environment, and reflects standard industry practice in the UK. Some of the standards benefit animal welfare by going beyond minimum legislation, such as prohibiting castration of meat pigs, a slightly reduced stocking density for meat chickens and the requirement for on-farm health and welfare monitoring. However in some circumstances the standards inadequately reflect the legislation, such as provision for manipulable material for pigs, and do not address welfare issues not reflected in legislation, such as confinement of sows during farrowing and permanent housing and tethering of dairy cows.
The Lion Mark
The Lion Mark appears on eggs and ensures they meet food safety criteria. This standard guarantees the eggs were laid in Britain but generally only ensures minimum legislative requirements for animal welfare, so permits the use of 'enriched cages' for hens as well as barn and free-range systems.
In November 2019, a new higher welfare standard for British Lion barn eggs was introduced which prohibits the use of intensive systems, such as 'Combi cages', and includes additional welfare requirements above those legally required. This new standard applies to all converted and newly built barn units, with a derogation for existing units until 31st December 2025.
The Red tractor and Lion Mark schemes also offer free-range production, so their logos may appear on free-range meat and eggs.
We are campaigning for all products to be clearly and honestly labelled. Join us in calling on the Government to ensure all animal products show the system in which the animal lived.
If you choose to eat fish you need to consider few factors. Wild caught fish had a natural life but usually suffer throughout the capture process and are nearly always killed inhumanely.
Farmed fish are often kept in unnatural conditions with little respect for their natural behaviour. They live in high stocking densities which can cause bad water quality and parasitic infestations. Some of farmed species are killed using humane methods (all Soil Association and RSPCA labelled fish) but many are killed inhumanely (eg seabass and seabream within the EU).
Carnivorous species like Salmon, Trout or Seabass are usually fed with feed containing a big proportion of fish oil and fishmeal. To obtain those products large quantities of small wild caught fish are needed. Again, these are not caught humanely.
Look for the Marine Stewardship Council logo to ensure wild-caught fish is sustainable. MSC unfortunately do not have welfare criteria listed in their certification.
If you do buy farmed fish, buy Soil Association organic for higher welfare standards. Otherwise fish may have suffered in over-crowded tanks, experienced unacceptable periods of starvation and been slaughtered inhumanely.
Buy organic or RSPCA Assured (formerly RSPCA Freedom Food) dairy products and look out for our Good Dairy Award Winners
The modern dairy cow, particularly the Holstein-Friesian, has been selectively bred to produce higher and higher milk yields at the expense of her welfare. She requires strict management and feeding and is more susceptible to production diseases, lameness, mastitis and fertility problems. As a consequence she is increasingly housed permanently indoors, fed large quantities of concentrate feed and is worn out after only 3 lactations or less.
Organic dairy farming ensures cows have access to pasture grazing in the grass growing season and encourages better welfare and better breeding in dairy cattle to reduce problems like lameness, mastitis and poor fertility. Also, look out for milk from more robust breeds including Ayrshire, Shorthorn, British Friesian and Channel Island breeds.
RSPCA Assured dairy standard ensures cows have access to pasture in the grass growing season and lower stocking densities when housed. Look out for our Good Dairy Award winners who also ensure pasture grazing in the grass growing season and active programmes for improving dairy cow welfare.
Remember products like cheese, ice cream and chocolate contain milk, and the cows that produce this milk should also have a good quality of life.
When you're eating out, remember the milk in your coffee or the cheese in your sandwich is unlikely to be organic unless it says so on the menu. Talk to the manager and see if they are willing to change their dairy supplier so dairy cows have access to pasture grazing and bull calves are not shot at birth or exported to the continent.
Good Dairy Awards
Our awards recognise companies that commit to using higher welfare production systems for dairy cows and calves throughout their supply chain. Full award winners provide pasture access and implement a welfare improvement programme for their dairy cows as well as rearing their dairy calves in higher welfare systems. Dairy Cow Commendation winners have yet to secure a supply chain for their dairy calves.
Find winning companies using higher welfare systems for dairy cows and dairy calves on our Good Dairy Awards website.
If you eat meat, the simplest thing you can do to help is to buy free-range chicken and poultry, free-range pork (or make sure it’s outdoor bred & reared) and grass-fed beef and lamb.
Cheap meat usually comes at a price – one paid by the farm animals and often the environment too.
Remember the meat in meals when you eat out. Don’t be afraid to ask staff in restaurants and sandwich bars whether meat is free-range and where it has come from. Also don’t forget the meat in your sandwiches or ready-made dishes – the animals reared for this meat also deserve a good quality of life.
Buy free-range and look out for our Good Egg Award winners
This is the simplest thing you can do to help the hens that lay your eggs. Free-range hens have access to the outdoors and are not confined in cages. Hens in barn systems are also free from cages, but do not have access to the outdoors.
The cheapest eggs are usually from cage systems. Use of the barren battery cage was banned in European Member States from 1st January 2012. Many countries are still not compliant and the use of the ‘enriched’ cage is still permitted. Cages confine hens, providing little three dimensional space and limiting the hens’ ability to carry out natural behaviours such as walking, wing flapping, dustbathing, perching and nesting. They are never allowed outside and do not see natural light.
Remember egg ingredients
Remember lots of food products like mayonnaise, cakes, biscuits and quiches contain egg. Unless the ingredients say 'free-range eggs' or ‘barn eggs’ they are likely to be from caged hens.
Good Egg Awards
Our awards recognise companies that commit to using cage-free eggs throughout their supply chain.
Find winning companies using free-range, organic or barn eggs, instead of cage eggs, on our Food Business website.
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If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).
Hope for the future
A legacy gift of love and hope can make a big difference for farm animals.