Thursday, 11 August 2011

Animal welfare is good for business

One of the things that has changed the most – and for the better - since I joined the RSPCA press office 10 years ago is a shift in consumer attitudes to animal welfare.

Consumers now know they can demand products that have been sourced and produced with animal welfare in mind, and companies recognise that animal welfare makes good business sense.

I can remember a time when it just didn’t occur to people to buy free range meat or to find out what the new coat they were buying was made of.

They just picked up a pack of chicken breasts from the supermarket shelf or item of clothing off the rack and were happy not to make the connection between the product they were buying and the fact that it came from a living animal.

Why have things changed? Well, I think TV programmes showing how farm animals are reared and slaughtered have helped raise awareness, and of course the RSPCA Freedom Food label has helped people make a higher welfare choice without having to spend much more on their weekly shop.

Supermarkets now actively advertise their higher welfare and free range products, and there are an increasing number of ethical fashion companies and retailers, with major clothing chains developing impressive ethical and traceability policies.

I think the fact that so many companies, large and small, enter the RSPCA’s Good Business Awards every year shows that they know that animal welfare is good for business and that they’re proud of the work they’re doing.

The awards were set up in recognition of the achievements of companies in the fashion and food industries that achieve higher standards of animal welfare.

Watch out for this year’s winners once they’re announced on 5 October and in the meantime, why not vote for the supermarket you think does the most for animal welfare in the RSPCA People’s Choice Award? The Co-operative, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Whole Foods Market have all been shortlisted.

Of course there’s still a lot that needs to change, from the way businesses operate to the way people shop, but I think we should be pleased with and proud of progress made in the last decade – I certainly am.

Helen Coen, senior press officer

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