A CHARITY is calling for clearer labelling on meat and dairy products - so consumers know how the animals have been reared. 

The RSPCA has started a Change Starts With The Choice campaign, calling on the government to introduce mandatory labelling on all animal products. 

According to the charity, the government recently abandoned plans for a consultation on this, so the RSPCA is encouraging them to do more about this issue. They are asking members of the pulic to lobby their MP and ask them to show suport for labelling, including on processed foors and ingredients. 

A new survey carried out by the RSPCA found that more than four out of five (82%) people in the South West think having a level of knowledge about the condition the animals have been reared and kept in is important when purchasing products. The survey also found that 82% of people in the region believe that they can improve animal welfare through their purchasing habits - the highest of any region.

And 61% of the South West population would only buy higher welfare options if there was clearer labelling on products.

David Bowles, the RSPCA’s head of public affairs, said: “Currently there is little information available to consumers to show them how farm animals have been reared.

"Instead, the public can be shown images of rolling green hills and animals in the sunshine which can be incredibly misleading and not reflective of reality in many cases. This is especially true of intensive farming practices which still account for around 70% of all land farming in the UK.

“No one wants to unwittingly contribute to low animal welfare, and support practices that they don’t agree with. The public has a right to clear and consistent labelling so they can make an informed choice about the products they buy - including produce imported from abroad.

“Positively, there is support for mandatory labelling not only from consumers but from the retailers selling the products and the farmers who are committed to higher welfare farming practices and deserve to have that commitment recognised; so the time has clearly come for the UK Government to act.”

Currently, method of production labelling is only available on shell eggs with terms such as ‘free-range’, ‘barn’ or ‘caged hens’ now becoming important indicators for consumers on which eggs to buy. Since this was introduced in 2004, there has been an increase in sales of cage-free eggs from around 30% up to 60% of products sold.

Kate Parkes, farm animal welfare expert at the RSPCA, added: “Many millions of animals are farmed in the UK and the lives of these animals, and the conditions they experience, can vary greatly.

“A laying hen in a so-called enriched cage and allocated little more usable space than an A4 sheet of paper is going to have a very different life to that of a free-range hen.

"Similarly, a pig that is kept on a fully slatted floor without bedding and little to keep them occupied will have a very different experience to one that is given plenty of bedding and material like straw, or one that has access to the outdoors.

"We think consumers want and deserve to know the difference - and this new poll shows many want to buy higher welfare when given this information.

“As such, we believe labelling products to demonstrate how an animal has been reared and the conditions they have been kept in would create even more demand for higher welfare products.

"This, in turn, would drive up farm animal welfare standards in the UK having a direct, and significant, impact on the lives of millions of animals.”

Defra has been contacted for comment.

To support the campaign, visit https://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/labelling.