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NPA urges caution on calls for welfare labelling

21st Sep 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has urged caution in response to calls from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) for mandatory method of production labelling on meat and dairy products.

Outdoor pigsThe BVA claimed the move could offer UK food producers and farmers a unique selling point in the post-Brexit world and help consumers answer simple questions like how the animal was kept and whether it died a humane death, including stunning before slaughter.

The association said pointed out legislation for mandatory method of production labelling has already been implemented for shell eggs, which must legally be labelled either as ‘eggs from caged hens’, ‘barn eggs’, ‘free range’ or ‘organic’.

The Labelling Matters campaign, which BVA is supporting, wants to see this principle extended to meat and dairy products.

BVA president Sean Wensley said: "For vets it's a top priority that the animals we rear for food have a good life and a humane death.

“Mandatory method of production labelling would 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."

NPA view

But NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said this sort of labelling could give the wrong impression to consumers as there was not always a clear correlation between the production system and the welfare of animals.

She said: “The Red Tractor and RSPCA Assured labels already provide consumers what they need‎ to know and assure standards.

“You can’t judge the welfare of an animal simply by whether it was reared indoors or outdoors. For example, in the UK, many of our indoor pig rearing systems are straw-based so cannot be compared with EU indoor reared pigs.

“It is also well-established that factors like the quality of husbandry and the state of buildings and equipment have an influence on animals’ health and welfare.”

Consumer surveys

The BVA said various pieces of research backed its stance, including:

  • Research commissioned by Labelling Matters showing 80% of EU consumers want labelling that clearly shows which farm system was used to produce their meat and dairy products
  • BVA's own Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey showing 94% of vets believe UK consumers of meat and fish should be better informed about slaughter methods
  • A study of 13,500 meat consumers across 27 EU Member States which found 72% wanted information about the stunning of animals when buying meat.