Thinking about the well-being of animals – the living conditions of the animals that we eat and whose products we use, like what they eat, where they live and how much space they have – is now inevitable. Even more so for those, like Slow Food, who want to consider the Quality of food in the broadest and most comprehensive sense possible: from its sensory qualities, to the environmental and social sustainability of its processing and finally to its cultural value.
In light of the next Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, which is taking place in October, the association has begun the process of approaching the issue, in order to acquire the necessary tools to confront the question in a rational way and with all due seriousness and competence.
The first step in this process was the meeting organized by Slow Food in its hometown of Bra (northeast of Cuneo) last week with those organizations who introduced the problem: the European Commission, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, and Compassion in World Farming. At the meeting these groups discussed the problem with researchers and veterinarians but also with producers and farmers, in an attempt to decide the best way to measure the well-being of animals while taking into account the premises and consequences, as well as the practical and economic ramifications of its introduction into the discussion on considerations we make about the animal products we consume.
It was agreed that the steps still to take going forward are many, but that people’s sensibility on the topic is finally changing. People are beginning to understand that the four protagonists of this story are connected: the question concerns not only the animals, but also those who raise them, those who consume them and also the planet that all of us must share.
Andrea Gavinelli, of the European Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate General, underlined that according to a Eurobarometer study, “70% of consumers express frustration for the fact that they know nothing of the conditions in which the animals [that they consume] are raised”.
The crucial element of this question has to do, in fact, with labels. Without adequate information it is quite difficult for the consumers to make a responsible choice, just as it is difficult for the farmers to be rewarded for the introduction of more respectful methods of raising their animals. Thus far a first step in the right direction has been taken with respect to the labeling of eggs, with the introduction of a European code that allows the consumer to know their provenance.
What is needed now is more information and transparency, in a virtuous circle that goes from the famers to the consumers and back again, in which the advantages are not only for the animals, who will live in better conditions, but also for the farmers who will be able to produce more and better products, and obviously for the consumers who will be able to have higher quality products with a decidedly smaller ecologic footprint.
It’s an uphill battle, for still too often excuses lead to inaction while effort is required from everyone if we’re going to go in the right direction, if we want more people to pay attention, if we want an exchange of information and of best practices: sometimes all it takes is a small gesture and the smallest of investments to produce the first significant results.