The Role of the Consumer in Animal Welfare Labelling

Activity: Talk, evidence or presentation typesInvited talk


THE ROLE OF THE CONSUMER IN ANIMAL WELFARE LABELLING Alistair B Lawrence 1,2 Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), West Mains Road, Edinburgh, UK 1 The initial period of the modern animal welfare debate was characterized by the use of legislation to prevent animal cruelty and to implement minimum legal standards for example in relation to housing conditions. The early 2000s saw governments shift away from a legislation only approach towards what could be referred to as a policy of ‘shared responsibilities’, including a recognised role for consumers and importance of the choices they make in their food purchases. At the same time various approaches to farm assurance were being developed. Whilst the primary aim of farm assurance was to increase consumer confidence in food safety, it opened up possibilities for informing consumers about a range of food qualities and attributes including those related to ethical and sustainable food production (see other talks in this workshop). The aim of this short presentation is to acknowledge the important role that consumer choices can play in improving animal welfare, but at the same time to be aware of potential limitations to demand-side solutions in resolving intransigent farm animal welfare issues. There are cases where it could be argued that the market has worked to reduce market failure and lead to improved animal welfare, e.g., the substantial increase in non-caged egg production. It is also possible to argue that in other situations improved labelling or information transfer to consumers could help close the attitudeconsumer behaviour gap. It is further possible that more radical changes such as introduction of trading schemes for ‘animal welfare units’ could help further in reducing farm animal welfare market failures. However, there may be limits to consumer-driven approaches to improving farm animal welfare; a recent study concluded that consumer demand alone could not be expected to secure improved pig welfare suggesting the need for the use of other market-driven approaches. It may also be an appropriate point to return to considering the role of governments in farm animal welfare improvements. For example, a recently published food strategy addressing major issues facing the food system proposes an interventionist strategy involving government and business as: ‘Transforming the food system will require change at all levels: structural, cultural, local and individual.’ In conclusion we perhaps should be cautious in putting too much emphasis on individuals’ behavioural change if our aim is to make significant improvements to farm animal welfare.
Period28 Jun 202229 Jun 2022
Event titleUFAW International Conference 2022:
Advancing Animal Welfare Science
Event typeConference
LocationEdinburgh, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational