EU considers food labels to improve animal welfare
Jan 11, 2006
By Jeremy Smith
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European consumers who prefer meat and dairy
products from humanely treated animals may soon be able to buy farm
produce stamped with an EU "welfare" label.
Noting a "seismic shift" in consumer opinion towards promoting animal
welfare rather than merely preventing cruelty and avoidable suffering,
the European Commission says it is keen to see more farm products
obtained using high welfare standards.
One way to achieve this, it says in a five-year plan to improve
treatment of animals, would be to create a label to help consumers
choose between "minimum" and "higher" welfare standards for the meat,
milk or eggs that they want to buy.
"The establishment of an EU label for animal welfare is an option to be
explored in the near future which could promote products elaborated
under high welfare standards," it said.
"There has been a clear shift of public attitudes towards animals over
recent decades and how animals are considered in society," said the
plan, obtained by Reuters.
Retailers and producers were increasingly recognising animal welfare as
a key element of product image and quality, it said.
EU marketing standards for eggs and poultry meat already include some
rules on animal welfare labelling. In 2005, the Commission called for
tighter hygiene and welfare rules for the billions of chickens
slaughtered in the EU each year for their meat, often in packed and poor
NEGATIVE PUBLIC VIEWS
The Commission will publish its animal welfare plan next week and
present it to EU agriculture ministers on January 23. It sets out a
series of proposed monitoring reports and ideas for draft laws at
various stages between 2006 and 2010.
It calls for the EU to look at alternatives to animal testing,
particularly for the cosmetics industry, how to control the trade in dog
and cat fur and improvements in satellite navigation systems to monitor
vehicles transporting animals long distances across the 25-nation region.
It aims to respond to EU public opinion, since a majority of European
citizens believe the welfare of farm animals -- particularly cattle,
pigs and poultry -- to be very poor.
Last month, the Commission published the results of a online survey of
40,000 respondents, most of whom said the bloc needed to do a lot more
to improve the welfare of farm animals.
Nearly 80 percent of people supported better food labelling about the
conditions in which animals are reared, while 67 percent said a better
knowledge of farming practices would influence their decisions when they
Apart from general laws on animal and farm welfare, the EU only has
specific legislation on veal, sows and laying hens. The plan also
suggests that new rules are needed for other species, like beef and
dairy cattle, sheep, turkeys and ducks.