DEFRA has suggested labelling food with information about the welfare conditions of the animal from which it was produced.

The suggestion forms part of a proposed Animal Welfare Delivery Strategy published on Tuesday (28 November) at the start of a 12-week consultation period.

DEFRA said its aim was to “increase society’s understanding and expertise in caring for animals, and to improve welfare beyond the baseline standards set by law”.

If a scheme was developed, it would be voluntary and might follow recommendations made last summer by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, FWi has learned.

Labelling

“FAWC advocated a three-tier scheme, with a gold welfare label representing the highest standards, down to bronze, which would reflect the UK legal minimum welfare level,” said DEFRA.

The strategy document suggested that improving the labelling of food would enable consumers to make more informed choices about the food they bought.

But the British Retail Consortium gave a lukewarm reponse to the labelling plan, saying it might cause confusion and undermine existing assurance standards.

The Little Red Tractor might achieve only a bronze standard, said a BRC spokesman. That might harm its credibility, and to have another label on produce might cause confusion.

Poorly timed

The spokesman also thought the DEFRA proposal was poorly timed because the EU was now reviewing food labelling laws.

Other proposals in DEFRA’s document included building agreement on global animal welfare standards and improving the quality of training and education for animal keepers. Also suggested were the stricter enforcement of welfare rules and the development of a robust and thorough system for measuring welfare standards.

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw said: “Everyone who keeps or works with animals can help improve their care.

“While it is our job to set minimum standards by law, the public and our key partners also have a vital role. This strategy suggests ways we can take responsibility for different aspects of this issue and work together to achieve good animal welfare. It’s a subject that affects us all and we want to hear what others think of our vision.”

  • Read the strategy document here