Government ignores the rights of consumers to shun factory farming horrors
The horrors of mass-produced egg and chicken products were aired last night in Jamie Oliver’s revealing exposé “Jamie's Fowl Dinners”. In addition to the grand-scale cruelty of factory farming methods, what this documentary also revealed was a crisis in mass-produced animal-derived products, as much an issue in Australia as it is elsewhere in the world.
Although the horrified response of audience members exemplified the feelings of people faced with the reality of factory farming, consumers in Australia are currently at a loss to identify the production methods of the majority of products on their supermarket shelves.
“With the proliferation of vague and meaningless product labels, many of which give no indication of the farming production method used, it is becoming impossible for consumers to make informed choices,” said Verna Simpson, HSI Director. “HSI has asked the Government to instigate an urgent review and reform of all legislation relating to the labelling of animal-derived food products, to ensure there is truth in product claims and clarity in product labelling.”
The response has been abysmal, with Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, stating that he does not support the labelling of food according to the method of production, and claiming that simply putting the place of origin of foods on labels is enough for consumers to make judgements on its suitability based on animal welfare concerns.
“This response from Minister Burke is reproachable and demonstrates a complete lack of respect for consumer rights,” said Ms Simpson. “The government is effectively spitting in the face of consumers who have very real ethical concerns about animal welfare and the production methods of the food they are buying. The approach he is advocating is far too simplistic. It is bewildering how Minister Burke expects consumers to make informed choices with this labelling system that is devoid of any meaningful information on what is in the products they are purchasing, and how they are produced.”
HSI is calling for a reform of all federal, state and territory legislation and regulations applying to food labelling, branding and marketing, that must ensure the terms used on product labels are limited and clearly defined, and that these terms are linked to consistent national standards, including those for animal welfare.