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Meat labelling reform requested

08 March 2013, 16:00

The leading NGO for farmed animal welfare in South Africa has requested Acting Consumer Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed to give urgent attention to the labelling of animal derived products so that consumers can be fore-warned that the method of production may be “unconscionable” in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.

Compassion in World Farming (SA) has taken the opportunity to readdress this issue with the National Consumer Commission (NCC), following the instruction this month by Minister of Trade and Industries, Dr Rob Davies, that the NCC urgently investigate the incorrect labelling of meat products.

Minister Davies said the incorrect labelling of meat products had been a source of “alarm and panic” for consumers since the discovery recently by researchers at Stellenbosch University, that donkey, goat and water buffalo were being passed off as beef in South African burgers and sausages.

Said Compassion’s Louise van der Merwe: “Just as importantly, the labels need to reflect how the animals who provide the products are or were kept. Labelling should reflect every aspect of the production line from farm to fork.”

She said Compassion’s repeated appeals to food retailers to become involved in the phasing-out of cruel methods of animal production, were consistently fobbed off with the excuse that they (the retailers) simply supply what consumers demand. “How utterly ridiculous this reply is, considering that consumers are so totally uninformed on the issues,” said Van der Merwe. “Not only are consumers not allowed onto farms so never get to see the gross cruelties of industrialised farming, but in addition, packaging often implies, with cute pictures and misleading words like ‘farm fresh’, that the animals actually led lives worth living.

“It is scandalous that an NGO like ourselves is  ‘encouraged’ by food retailers ‘to keep up the good work’ while they continue to profiteer from the sale of unconscionably cruel products and, in addition, insult consumers by assuming that they don’t care how their food is raised as long as it’s cheap. How patronising. How paternalistic!”

Van der Merwe said that the NCC was mandated to bring about a nation of informed, educated, responsible and ethical consumers. As an example of what we are looking for, she said, European law required that battery cage eggs be labelled “eggs from caged hens”.

Compassion also drew Mr Ebrahim’s attention to the fact that Compassion and its supporters submitted a Class Action complaint to the NCC regarding cruel production methods, on 21 February 2011. Subsequently, Compassion met with then Commissioner Mohlala and also complied with her request for further information. Yet, Compassion had yet to receive a reply from the NCC. Compassion’s Class Action complaint alleged that in terms of Section 4 of the Consumer Protection Act, the production methods of certain animal-derived products were “unconscionable and unethical or improper to a degree that shocks our conscience and offends us, as reasonable people.”

[ The above is a press release from Compassion in World Farming (SA) Representative Tozie Zokufa ]

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