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2 October 2009 - World Farm Animal Day HSI calls on consumers to demand truth in labelling      

World Farm Animal Day – HSI calls on consumers to demand truth in labelling

Sydney, 2 October 2009                                    

On World Farm Animal Day, Humane Society International (HSI) is today calling on consumers to demand truth in labelling of all meat, eggs and dairy products.

Public awareness of the plight and suffering of the more than 500 million animals in factory farm environments throughout Australia is growing. Yet despite increased consumer demand for ethically produced meat products, there are no legal definitions or standards for terms such as free-range, and consumers are not in a position to make informed purchasing decisions.

The vague and undefined labelling terms in use on animal products is both confusing for consumers, and enables intensive producers to cash in on booming market share for free-range produce by defining the terms to suit themselves,” said Verna Simpson, HSI Director. “Producers and retailers can make any claim about production without fear of prosecution, even if they have charged a premium, and consumers are none the wiser.”

The current paradigm sets the scene for widespread consumer deception. A recent analysis of egg industry data by the NSW Greens showed that substitution of free-range eggs with cage eggs is rife, resulting in just over 16% of all eggs produced each year being mislabelled, and consumers being duped on a massive scale.

In addition, the ACCC has twice decided not to investigate cases of deceptive conduct following the admitted mislabelling of intensively produced pork products because there are no fixed standards for free-range produce.

“Without consistent and enforceable definitions, food labelling is meaningless,” said Ms Simpson. “Consumers have the right to make informed decisions based on ethical concerns, and they most certainly have the right to know that the extra cost they are paying for humanely produced food is justified. These rights should not be granted at the whim of the producers.”

HSI last month launched a national survey to gauge consumer understanding of labelling terms currently in use. Although survey responses are still flooding in, initial observations of the data reveal immense consumer confusion about labelling terms on meat products. Consumers can do their bit to improve the lives of all farm animals by completing the survey at: http://bit.ly/1yTVuR

“Clearly, consumers are not getting what they think they are paying for,” said Ms Simpson. “A consistent national labelling scheme for meat, eggs and dairy products is urgently required, and while industry has a vested financial interest in maintaining the status quo, it is up to consumers to force the change and demand truth in product labelling.”

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