The Consumer Labelling Turn in Farmed Animal Welfare Politics: From the Margins of Animal Advocacy to Mainstream Supermarket Shelves
Michelle Phillipov and Katherine Kirkwood (eds), Alternative Food Politics: From the Margins to the Mainstream, Routledge (Critical Food Series, 2018), Forthcoming
23 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2018
Date Written: November 24, 2017
There has been enormous growth in the Australian market for free range egg, pork and chicken meat products and significant contention over the use of terms such as "free range", "free to roam", "bred free range" and "sow stall free". This chapter critically examines the degree to which free range and higher welfare label claims on Australian animal food products have shifted animal welfare concerns from the "margins" of the animal advocacy movement to the "mainstream" of everyday consumer choice. It also asks: what has been lost and gained as dominant industry and retailers have adopted these label claims? We show how the growth of free range and higher welfare labelled foods in mainstream retail outlets has seen the politics of farm animal welfare shift to a focus on labelling and contestations of label terms, with less emphasis on the possibility of stricter government regulation of animal welfare. The growth of free range and higher welfare labelled foods, and contestation of their meaning, represents a broadening of stakeholder concern for animal welfare and a greater ability to build coalitions among animal rights advocates, consumers, supermarkets and alternative food activists that challenge entrenched industry interests. However, it also represents a tendency to narrow down the range of contested issues, and to sentimentalise, simplify and de-radicalise potential solutions, while at the same time emphasising the availability of high quality, high welfare goods through small niches in the market. This indicates a governance gap - a chasm between what can be achieved via voluntary certification and labelling (even with ongoing supermarket support and civil society activism) and the need for a more inclusive and sustainable official regulatory governance system for animal welfare in production practice.
Keywords: food politics, regulatory governance, political consumerism, ethical consumerism, food labelling, animal welfare, pigs, chickens, hens, free range, RSPCA, supermarkets, consumer protection law, food law, business ethics
JEL Classification: K20, M31, M38, M14, Q18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation