Consumers back stricter rules on animal welfare

Almost nine out of 10 consumers want stricter European rules to improve animal welfare, according to a survey by Belgium’s Testachats and consumer organisations in seven other EU countries. Among the measures cited were an increase in the space allocated to animals and a ban on caging and mutilation.

Six out of 10 Belgians are willing to pay more for food to support stricter rules in the livestock sector. Around half are prepared to pay 5 per cent extra, while one in 20 would pay a premium of more than 20 per cent. Young people are the most willing to pay more for higher standards.

“While a very large majority of consumers believe it is important to improve animal welfare standards, we are calling on the EU and national governments to ensure that the costs of this transition are shared fairly and are not borne solely by consumers,” Testachats spokesperson Julie Frère said in a press release.

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The survey also shows that seven out of 10 people in Belgium feel they have too little information about animal welfare. Three out of four want information on production methods, such as that mentioned on egg packaging, to be applicable to other products. Only one in five consumers who have seen an animal welfare claim on packaging trusts it.

“As with discussions on the sustainability of products, the first step in making a conscious choice is to be properly informed,” said Frère, “but our study clearly shows that this is unfortunately not the case.

"Even when information does exist, it is not understood by consumers. Too few Belgians, for example, know the meaning of the codes on eggs, which provide valuable information on how the hens were reared.”

Import standards

Three-quarters of consumers are in favour of the EU providing funds to farmers to implement stricter animal welfare standards. The same proportion broadly agree that animal welfare rules should apply not only to European farmers but also to imported meat.

Two in five of those surveyed in Belgium said they eat meat at least five times a week, with only 3 per cent saying they are vegetarian or vegan. 18 per cent of people eat meat every day.

"Industry, retailers and the food service sector should do more to provide a broader range of affordable, healthy and convenient plant-based options"

“Looking at the bigger picture, with most Europeans overconsuming meat, eating 'less but better' animal products would benefit not only consumers’ health but also the climate and animals," said Monique Goyens, director-general of BEUC, the European association of consumer organisations. 

"Industry, retailers and the food service sector should do more to provide consumers with a broader range of affordable, healthy and convenient plant-based options.”

The survey questioned consumers in Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden in November 2023, polling 1,000 people per country. 



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