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DEFRA Consultation, 13 September 2021
The ‘Call for evidence’ is available on a DEFRA web page and provides a link to an online survey. The survey closes 6 December 2021. To access the consultation page (with the survey link at the end), see: Call for Evidence - Labelling for Animal Welfare.
Statement by The Rt Hon Victoria Prentis MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
One of the first things I did as a minister was to take the Agriculture Bill through Parliament. Now the Agriculture Act 2020, it has given us the legislative framework to set the basis for future farming policy. We will support farmers to improve the environment, increase animal health and welfare, and reduce carbon emissions – while of course producing high-quality, delicious food.
As a nation we care enormously about animal welfare and increasingly about environmental standards. Consumer information and labelling are part of the toolbox that we have when it comes to creating a better food system for people and the planet. It is something that we will be considering in detail with industry and stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead.
It is an exciting time for our agri-food sector. Our new agricultural schemes will soon begin to reward farmers for improving both the environment and animal health and welfare. Reforms to labelling and consumer information could enable us better to connect farmers in our schemes through the supply chain to consumers, recognising the whole farm picture and stimulating demand for environmentally friendly and high welfare products and improving profitability.
I also want to make sure that our labelling reforms support our trade policy by promoting the interests of our farmers and food producers. Our manifesto was very explicit that in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. I want us to ensure that consumers are able to differentiate between products that meet or exceed the UK’s high welfare standards and those that do not.
We know that the public is largely in favour of the Government setting further standards to ensure greater consistency and understanding of welfare information at the point of purchase. This will also be a key consideration in our Food Strategy White Paper, which we have committed to publish within six months of the publication of Henry Dimbleby’s recent review. We will also be exploring other complementary market interventions, including mandatory disclosure of welfare standards.
Any changes that we make must be user-friendly for our agri-food businesses, and I am very mindful of the importance of ensuring that any changes are simple, considered in the round, and do not place additional cost burdens on business. It is a moment of great opportunity for our food system, and the wider agri-food industry. This call for evidence is an important step alongside our wide review of food labelling for the Food Strategy White Paper. We hope we can use this evidence to work with you to identify any improvements to food labelling and consumer information that deliver the high welfare and environmental outcomes we all support.
Why your views matter
The ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation in 2018 found that 72% of respondents were in favour of the government setting further standards to ensure greater consistency and understanding of welfare information at the point of purchase.
As part of the UK Government’s commitment to further improving standards of farm animal welfare, we are seeking evidence on the impacts of different forms of labelling. This will be used to inform any future policy proposals on labelling for animal welfare.
Evidence would be particularly welcome on potential impacts on businesses, and also on the effectiveness of labelling at influencing farmer, business and consumer behaviour. It can be in the form of statistical data, case studies, literature reviews, personal experiences, reports and documents, whether new or historical. Wherever possible, please provide full references.
Anyone may respond to the call for evidence. Those who have an interest include:
We are looking for information on labelling for animal welfare in the following key areas:
There will be a wider review of food labelling as part of the UK Government’s Food Strategy White Paper where there may be a need for future public consultation. For now, we are looking for some preliminary evidence with regards to how labelling for animal welfare may align with wider labelling reform, including nutrition and eco-labelling.
This is a call for evidence relating to England, Wales and Northern Ireland only. Animal welfare and food labelling are devolved and we will discuss the responses to this with the Scottish government.