The Better Life label

The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) is the largest animal protection organisation in the Netherlands, with over 160,000 members. Besides 350 paid employees about 30,000 volunteers are active for the society. The Dutch SPA is member of Eurogroup for Animals, the umbrella organisation of the leading animal welfare groups in the EU member states.

Why the Better Life label

From the existing farming systems the Dutch SPA values organic and free range systems the most. But less than 1% of the 450 million animals annually produced in Dutch farming are kept in these systems. The Dutch SPA also wants to improve the welfare of the other 99% of production animals that often live in very intensive not very animal friendly systems. One way to do that is to work with the industry in setting up market segments with products derived from animals that are kept in a more animal friendly way. This led to the development of the Better Life label.

A label with different levels

The Better Life label is simple. Research shows that it is the best known food label among Dutch consumers. It has three levels to resemble the process of ‘raising the bar’ and to offer farmers and consumers the possibility to improve animal welfare step by step. If a product doesn’t have the Better Life label, i.e. no stars, it is a product derived form a regular, intensive farmingsystem with no added animal welfare, or a farming system that has not been certified by the Dutch SPA.

The differences between the stars

1 star

One star stands for regular farming with additional requirements to improve the most urgent animal welfare issues per animal species, e.g. slower growing breeds of broilers, pigs with more space and enrichment and veal calves with more roughage feed and prevention of anaemia.

2 stars

Two stars means that the animals get access to an outdoor area and many ofthe animal welfare issues need to be resolved or need further improvement.

3 stars

Three stars are awarded to organic farming systems, and farming systems with acomparable level of animal welfare.

Organisation

In 2007 the Dutch SPA started a pilot with the Better Life label on chicken meat derived from a slower growing breed of broilers. The broilers got more space, enrichment materials (straw bales) and a covered outdoor run. This strategy of the labelling of meat by de Dutch SPA resulted in some (internal) discussions, but after an evaluation the annual general meeting concluded in December 2007 that the Better Life label could improve the life of millions of farm animals and decided to continue and extend working with it.

The requirements are drafted based on scientific data e.g. from the EFSA Scientific Panel on Animal Healthand Animal Welfare. Additionally they are based on comparable, existing schemes such as RSPCA Assured label from the RSPCA in the UK and Label Rouge in France. Finally the Dutch SPA also takes into account what is practically and economically feasible in the different animal sectors and public opinion. The Dutch SPA is scheme owner for the Better Life label. The Dutch SPA is responsible for the requirements, the general policy, political issues and for communication about the label. To stay independent the Dutch SPA doesn’t receive compensation for its work for the label. For the assessment of participants and for quality assurance, auditing and overseeing certification bodies a separate foundation, ‘the Better Life label foundation’, has been set up. You can find the foundation when you click on ‘bedrijven’,