Government urges action on welfare

The government is proposing supermarkets put labels on meat to denote animal welfare standards.

Defra minister Ben Bradshaw has asked retailers to introduce the scheme ahead of plans for an EU-wide system, now under discussion.

The suggestion was unveiled in an Animal Welfare Delivery document, published for consultation by Defra. Ministers believe the initiative would drive up standards on UK farms.

In the document, the government said: "Where good welfare represents added value for consumers, products from animals raised according to high welfare standards should command a premium. These benefits must incentivise good welfare practices by producers, and rewards should be returned to them."

It is believed ministers would like retailers to adopt something along the lines of a gold-silver-bronze label, indicating some animal welfare systems were in place over and above the baseline standards set by law. The government plans to hold talks with retailers about the labelling initiative next year, but the response from the supermarkets has been lukewarm.

The British Retail Consortium, said that there were already a variety of labelling schemes in place that denoted welfare standards, including the Red Tractor.