Ayrton Cable tells MPs: Give consumers the choice on animal welfare

News - 6th September 2012

Ayrton Cable is a nine-year-old on a mission. The grandson of Business Secretary, Vince Cable, will premiere his short film proposing a new law on food labelling to an invited audience of MPs and journalists in Portcullis House on 5th September. He says: "I think all meat and dairy products, like chicken, cheese and bacon should be clearly and honestly labelled to show the farm system used to rear the animal."

Vince Cable says of Ayrton: "I am delighted that my grandson is playing a role fronting this campaign for Compassion in World Farming and its partner organisations. A lot has been done to improve farm animal welfare standards in the UK, but some very bad practice remains and it is the greater awareness of the people which will drive the needed improvement in standards."

This event will also launch the Labelling Matters campaign, in which Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA, Soil Association and WSPA join together to demand clearer information for consumers. Senior representatives from all four organisations will speak alongside Ayrton at the event.

Ayrton believes consumers should have the chance to make up their own minds. "With method of production labelling people can choose either to buy meat and cheese from animals which are kept in a kinder system, even though this may cost a bit more. Or they could choose intensively farmed food, which may be cheaper, but which has been made using animals who suffered."

Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, says: "In surveys up to 90% of UK consumers say animal welfare is an important factor when shopping for food, and yet many people find it difficult to identify higher welfare products on supermarket shelves. [1] Factory farmed foods often have misleading images of rolling fields and 'happy' animals on the labels. Without clear information, many shoppers will continue to buy intensively farmed food without realising it.

"Government and retailers are both responsible for ensuring consumers are protected from unclear or misleading labels. We need to change the system so that shoppers can choose the foods they most want to buy."

Julia Wrathall, Head of Farm Animals at RSPCA, says: "Mandatory labelling of egg boxes with the method of production has been in place since 2004. [2] The clear information provided has helped more and more consumers to choose cage-free eggs. More than half the eggs produced in the UK now come from higher welfare farming systems – barn, free range, and organic, showing that people are prepared to pay a bit more to improve animal welfare, thereby supporting farmers who rear animals under higher welfare conditions.

"We all bear responsibility for the way farm animals are produced – governments, farmers, retailers and very importantly, consumers. Mandatory rules on labelling not only help farmers differentiate their products in the market place, but also help consumers who want to support and reward higher welfare farming."

Ayrton Cable says: "I find that when people understand what really goes on in farms, they want clear, honest information about where the food they buy comes from.' He says, 'We should take a stand on food labelling with a new law, and have all meat and dairy products labelled by method of production."