Behind the eco labels: Freedom Food

Freedom Food was set up in 1994 by the RSPCA as the first farm-assurance scheme to concentrate primarily on animal welfare. The Freedom Food mark found on eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and salmon products means the animals involved have been reared, handled, transported and slaughtered to standards devised and monitored by the RSPCA.

Sadly, these standards are aspirational rather than strict requirements. Freedom Food certification won’t be withheld if these aspirations are not met to the letter. This was amply illustrated a few years ago when reports came to light of Freedom Foods pigs and chickens being raised in cramped conditions, and subjected to tail docking (in pigs) and beak trimming (in chickens). So much for freedom.

According to Viva!, Vegetarians International Voice for Animals, the Freedom Food animal welfare standards fall well short of the Soil Association’s standards and are usually little better than the legal minimum requirements. The RSPCA says its welfare standards are deliberately practical and achievable, thus they can be implemented on both large- and small-scale farms, and cover indoor and outdoor systems.

The Ecologist says

Freedom Food does little to challenge the orthodoxy of intensive farming and because it focuses simply on basic animal welfare, it does nothing to address the environmental impacts of this kind of farming.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2007

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