Labelling as a Tool for Improving Animal Welfare : The Pig Case
Market-based promotion of animal welfare has become increasingly important in the EU. Retailers in several countries have implemented graded animal welfare labels for a variety of animal-based products. In this paper, we use labels for pork as a case study and investigate which aspects of animal welfare are promoted by pig welfare labels; we further discuss to what extent labels address the major welfare problems observed in European pig production. Consumers generally focus on aspects of animal welfare related to naturalness, such as outdoor access, straw, and duration of suckling period. Animal welfare labels often address these aspects in addition to other welfare aspects that are of interest to the consumer, such as space, mutilations, confinement, and access to roughage. Major welfare problems such as piglet mortality and weaner diarrhoea are not directly addressed by pig welfare labels. As pig welfare labels often require intact tails, it will also be relevant to address the risk of tail biting and tail lesions. Pig welfare labels, in general, do not use animal-based measures; rather, they are resource-based measures, while animal-based measures are more directly related to animal welfare. Animal-based measures are more difficult and expensive to use in a certification system than resource-based ones. In addition, animal-based measures may be more difficult to communicate to consumers. However, inclusion of animal-based measures would improve reproducibility of labels across production systems and provide documentation on actual levels of major animal welfare problems.