British vets call for mandatory animal welfare labelling

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is calling for mandatory method of production food labelling on meat and dairy products. 

The association believes that, post-Brexit, the UK food sector is in a beneficial position to provide consumers with clear welfare labelling, providing a unique selling point. BVA is now getting behind ‘Labelling Matters’, a campaign working to introduce methods of production labelling to an animal.

Such a development would help communicate with consumers about the life of the animal, from its upbringing right through to its death.

“For vets it’s a top priority that the animals we rear for food have a good life and a humane death,” commented BVA president Sean Wensley. “Research shows that vets are not alone in caring about where their food comes from.”

A key element to the Labelling Matters campaign is that mandatory method of production labelling must be supported by robust welfare outcome standards, backed by on-farm welfare assessments, ensuring that a high quality of upkeep is being enforced.

“Mandatory method of production labelling makes sense on a number of fronts: 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.”

According to the BVA, consumers in the UK and across Europe want clear food labelling across the supply chain.

“Mandatory method of production labelling would give unambiguous information to the high number 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,” concluded Wensley.

Responding to the BVA's call for transparent labelling of meat processing methods, Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) said pre-slaughter stunning had been a core principle of the Red Tractor scheme for well over a decade.

RTA also welcomed the BVA's support for on-farm welfare assessments, stating that the Red Tractor was the first UK scheme to pioneer that approach.

Referring to the BVA's call for labelling of farming systems, RTA said legislation already existed to define free range chicken production and Red Tractor had standards to define good husbandry in free range and housed systems.

"For pig production there is no legislation but several years ago the UK industry developed voluntary definitions, with the help of animal welfare bodies, to label different types of outdoor production system. Again Red Tractor has specific standards to support good practice in each type of system."

RTA chief executive David Clarke said: "Of course we could go further and invent more label terms for further sub divisions of production systems for different species. But we need to be careful not to cross the line where the plethora of different labels becomes so confusing that it ceases to serve a useful purpose."

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