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October 1, 2013

Majority of Canadians Want Clearer Animal Welfare Labels

Humane Society International/Canada Calls on CFIA to require clear, mandatory labels on animal products

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Most eggs in sold Canada come from hens confined in cages. Erin Van Voorhies/The HSUS

MONTREAL—A new poll by Environics Research Group reveals that 82 percent of Canadians want to see clearer labels on meat, dairy products and eggs indicating how animals were raised. The poll comes as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts a Food Labelling Modernization Initiative to address weaknesses in the current food labelling framework.

Sayara Thurston, campaigner with Humane Society International/Canada, stated: “Canadians care about how farm animals are treated and want to improve animal welfare with their purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, current food labels do not provide consumers with enough information to make an informed choice at the grocery store. We welcome CFIA’s review of labelling regulations and hope to see clear, mandatory labels indicating how animals were treated during their lives.”

Food manufacturers selling their products in Canada currently have no obligation to label their products with information that indicates how farm animals were raised, including whether they were confined in cages, had access to the outdoors, or were able to express natural behaviours during their lives. Approximately 700 million animals are raised and slaughtered for human consumption in Canada every year. The vast majority of them spend virtually their entire lives locked inside intensive, indoor housing systems, with tens of millions permanently confined to cage housing systems such as barren battery cages (laying hens) or gestation crates (breeding sows).

In other countries, method-of-production labelling systems have been enacted to require that products such as eggs indicate whether animals were kept in cages during their lives. These labelling systems have resulted in market-driven welfare improvements within the egg industry.

The Environics poll involved an online survey conducted among 1,007 adult Canadians. Quotas were established for province, age and gender to ensure the final sample was representative of the Canadian population. The survey was conducted from Sept. 17-19, 2013 with qualifying members of online research panels. As Internet panels are non-probability samples, a margin of sampling error cannot be cited. The full poll is available here.

Facts:

  • The European Union implemented mandatory method of production labelling for shell eggs in 2004. The system indicates whether eggs are from caged hens, barn eggs, free-range, or organic. Production of eggs that conform to higher animal welfare standards increased from 31 percent to 51 percent in 2011, after the labelling system was implemented. (Source: Defra).
  • A recent Qa Research report in the EU found that more than four-fifths of consumers in the UK, France and the Czech Republic wanted to see the egg labelling system extended to meat and dairy products.
  • Polling data from a 2010 Harris/Decima survey revealed that 78 percent of Canadians support mandatory labelling of eggs from cage facilities as “eggs from caged hens.”
  • In Australia, the Eggs (labelling and sales) Act was reintroduced in the Australian Capital Territory in 2010 with the requirement that eggs be labelled according to their method of production, with cage eggs bearing the label: “THESE ARE CAGE EGGS. Birds are continuously housed in cages within a shed.”
  • HSI advocates compassionate eating—or the Three Rs: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards.

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Media Contact: Christopher Paré, HSI/Canada: 514.395.2914; cpare@hsi.org

Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, with active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation, farm animal welfare and animals in research. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International which, together with its partners, constitutes one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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