Does Consumer Protection Equal Animal Protection

There seems to be a change of focus in Australia’s ‘animal protection’ groups lately.

In days gone by, the old animal rights movement was focused was on ‘liberating’ animals from oppression at the hands of animal agri-business. Whereas today their focus seems to be on getting certain people mentioned in the media as much as possible, and ensuring that the animal (by)products are labelled correctly to ensure that the consumer isn’t hoodwinked.

And two of the worst offenders of this are Voiceless, and Animal Liberation (NSW).

According to their website, Voiceless is an independent, non-profit think tank focused on raising awareness of animals suffering in factory farming and the kangaroo industry in Australia.

Whilst Animal Liberation (NSW) believes all animals (yes humans are animals too) have a right to live how they would normally choose without other species intervention. Just like slaves, women and other minorities in society have been able to challenge views on how they should be treated and what their rights should be, Animal Liberation wants to challenge society on its views of all non-human animals. The way we do this is through educational campaigns, public events and using the media to get our message across.

Unless I have missed something, I cannot see anything in the two descriptions above, or on their websites where they mention anything about consumer protection.

Yet this is exactly where they are heading.

Whilst the new direction was originally started by Voiceless in July of this year with Emmanuel Giuffre’s piece on
The Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd, Bartter Enterprises Pty Limited, and Australian Chicken and Meat Federation Inc. v Australian Competition and Consumer Commission case,(Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Turi Foods Pty Ltd (No 4) [2013] FCA 665), the baton has been picked up recently by Animal Liberation (NSW).

Just prior to the September 07 Federal election, Animal Liberation (NSW) via it’s executive director, Mark Pearson, was featured in a segment on the ABC’s Landline. It was during this segment that we first became aware of Animal Liberation (NSW)’s new focus, with the group’s new toy, and Mr Pearson’s bid for a NSW senate seat as a candidate and vice president of the Animal Justice Party. This was followed up by a recent article where Mr Pearson has said that a complaint has been lodged with the ACCC over the incorrect labelling of eggs produced at the farm in question.

If you listen to these two organisations, they will have you believe that a win for consumer protection, via penalties for incorrect labelling of food items is also a win for animal protection.

The ACCC is independent statutory authority that enforces the Competition and Consumer Act 2010(cwth), previously the Trade Practices Act 1974(cwth), along with other relevant legislation of which animal protection legislation is not one of them.

[GARD]With regards to the rights of the consumer, the ACCC is primarily concerned about the consumer getting what they believe they paid for. For example, if you are a chicken meat producers and you house the chickens in an area where they are not able to move around, flap their wings, etc. you can still sell the chicken meat so long as you label it correctly. This is why the ACCC succeeded in the above mentioned case.

The chicken meat that was sold by Steggles was labelled as ‘free to roam’, yet this was not entirely true.

In the Federal Court, Justice Tracey, found in favour of the ACCC in that the respondents had breached the Trade Practices Act 1974.

In his commentary on the decision, Voiceless’ Emmanuel Giuffre, acknowledges that it is arguable that Justice Tracey’s decision will have only a marginal impact on stemming intensive factory farming practices in the chicken meat industry, the decision sends a strong message to producers: you can no longer mask the truth behind your production methods. The decision is also a win for consumers, who will now have some clarity around the language commonly used on product labels.

These animals will still be killed or have their eggs used, the only difference now will be that the product is correctly labelled as such. That being said, I am yet to see or understand how this case or the complaint lodged by Animal Liberation (NSW), is a win for the animals.

Claiming that it is, is either a deliberate attempt to mislead animal advocates or an assumption that they are unable to understand the reality that it isn’t and why.