The role of the consumer in animal welfare labelling

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The initial period of the modern animal welfare debate was characterized by the use of legislation to preventanimal cruelty and to implement minimum legal standards for example in relation to housing conditions. The early2000s saw governments shift away from a legislation only approach towards what could be referred to as a policyof ‘shared responsibilities’, including a recognised role for consumers and importance of the choices they make intheir food purchases. At the same time various approaches to farm assurance were being developed. Whilst theprimary aim of farm assurance was to increase consumer confidence in food safety, it opened up possibilities forinforming consumers about a range of food qualities and attributes including those related to ethical andsustainable 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 inimproving animal welfare, but at the same time to be aware of potential limitations to demand-side solutions inresolving intransigent farm animal welfare issues.There are cases where it could be argued that the market has worked to reduce market failure and lead toimproved animal welfare, e.g., the substantial increase in non-caged egg production. It is also possible to arguethat 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 schemesfor ‘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 studyconcluded that consumer demand alone could not be expected to secure improved pig welfare suggesting theneed for the use of other market-driven approaches. It may also be an appropriate point to return to consideringthe role of governments in farm animal welfare improvements. For example, a recently published food strategyaddressing major issues facing the food system proposes an interventionist strategy involving government andbusiness as: ‘Transforming the food system will require change at all levels: structural, cultural, local andindividual.’ In conclusion we perhaps should be cautious in putting too much emphasis on individuals’ behaviouralchange if our aim is to make significant improvements to farm animal welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPrint publication - 28 Jun 2022
EventUFAW International Conference 2022:
Advancing Animal Welfare Science
- Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh , Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jun 202229 Jun 2022


ConferenceUFAW International Conference 2022:
Advancing Animal Welfare Science
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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