The Hidden Hand of the Market: Who Regulates Animal Welfare Under a Labelling for Consumer Choice Approach?
Regulation and Governance, Forthcoming
28 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 16, 2015
In Australia, labelling for consumer choice, rather than higher government regulation, has become an important strand of the policy approach to addressing food animal welfare. It is particularly prominent in relation to egg production since 2000 when the Australian Government chose to encourage free range labelling rather than ban battery cages. This paper asks which actors, what discourses and what regulatory mechanisms are important and which are eclipsed when labelling for consumer choice is chosen over government regulation. It uses “regulatory network analysis” based on reading of all official government reports and content analysis of reported public policy debate about the ethical governance of animal welfare in egg production in major Australian newspapers from 1990 to 2014. The paper shows that the stakeholders reported as active in the debate have expanded to include consumer regulators, consumer advocacy organisations and consumer oriented businesses, especially supermarkets, in addition to, and often overshadowing animal advocacy organisations, primary industries departments of government and producer associations. With this shift in stakeholders and regulatory policy the possibility of banning battery cages and requiring enriched cages has been eclipsed. Instead attention has moved to ways of regulating labelling and the various private standards behind the label claims and logos.
Keywords: regulation, animal welfare, eggs, layer hens, free range, consumer choice, food labelling, market based political action
JEL Classification: K20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation