Poll shows Canadians want animal welfare labels: Humane society

Most Canadians want labels on eggs, meat and dairy products that explain how animals were raised, a new poll has found.

The Canadian branch of Humane Society International said the survey results demonstrate that consumers support more robust labelling rules around animal welfare.

“Often when people are in the supermarket, they don’t realize the products that they are buying come from (livestock) practices that they’re not OK with,” said Sayara Thurston, a campaigner with Humane Society International/Canada.

The animal welfare group contracted Environics, a research firm, to conduct an online poll in September. The survey of 1,007 Canadians determined that 82 percent of respondents would like to see clearer labels on meat, dairy and egg products “indicating how animals are treated.”

The poll also found that consumers don’t understand how egg-laying hens are raised. About 49 percent of respondents didn’t comprehend the term “enriched housing system.” They couldn’t identify a hen housing method associated with the term, even though the survey offered multiple choices of systems.

Since Canadians are confused and don’t understand labels like free-run or free-range, Humane Society International would like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to replace the existing system with mandatory labelling around animal welfare practices.

Thurston said Canada’s voluntary system of animal welfare claims on food labels isn’t reliable.

“Without any regulation that’s really open to exploitation and confusion at the consumer level,” she said. “Consumers are making purchasing decision based on these labels but the labels aren’t subject to any sort of regulation.”

Thurston said all production practices should be labelled because it would alleviate confusion.

“If you have a picture of a sunny barn on a field, consumers may not necessarily know that those eggs come from caged hens.”

Thurston said this is the perfect time to discuss mandatory labels for method of production methods in Canada’s livestock sector because the CFIA is beginning a process called the Food Labeling Modernization Initiative.

As noted on its website, the CFIA wants to develop a more modern food labelling system because consumers want more information about food products and the food industry is adapting to changing market expectations.

Thurston said the CFIA is working on a two year timeline for its Food Labeling Modernization Initiative.

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