Welfare labelling must not create administrative burden, say ministers

UK - European health commissioner Markos Kyprianou wants to introduce a two-tier welfare labelling scheme.
calendar icon 10 May 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

However, some continental trade and producer organisations have criticised the plans and particularly regarding the comment that an animal welfare labelling system would not be a cost burden, but an extra opportunity.

Agriculture ministers have warned that such a scheme must be based on sound science and avoid loading an unnecessary administrative burden onto producers and national authorities.

If welfare labelling goes ahead, it might be based on independently-audited assurance schemes, such as the Genesis Quality Assurance scheme which already has a welfare element in place.

This could give British producers a significant advantage, as few other countries have such a developed quality assurance network. Also few can meet Britain’s no-castration, no-stalls method of production, said Ann Petersson at yesterday’s NPA Producer Group meeting.

If the Kyprianou labelling scheme does go ahead it is likely to be on two levels. The first will label foods that comply with minimum European Union standards of animal welfare. The second, will be a welfare-plus scheme, which will be voluntary.

The welfare-plus idea might include a starred ranking system - with more stars being awarded to the more stringent European Union producers.

This is not a passing fancy of the commissioner’s; £11.6m has been linked to the concept.

Europe’s agriculture ministers say animal welfare is of concern to many Europeans, who must be able to make an informed choice if the internal market is to work smoothly.

At a recent meeting of the Agriculture Council they agreed that labelling could be “one important element” in keeping shoppers informed. “Labelling should be simple, easy to recognise, comprehensible and credible and should not mislead consumers.”

They have asked the European Commission submit a report to them on the subject, so that an in-depth debate can take place.

  • What do you think? Would a welfare labelling scheme be good for Britain or would it bureaucratize something that is best left to market forces? Please email your thoughts to the NPA FORUM.
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