Animal welfare claims
Free range claims are used to market animal products, such as eggs and meat, that have been farmed in an open range outdoor environment. Free range claims appeal to consumers’ personal values and can guide purchasing decisions, as well as attract a premium price.
Businesses must not use free range claims unless those claims are accurate.
Businesses should be careful about what impression may be conveyed by any pictorial representations they use. If a business uses pictorial representations that give the impression that its animals are ‘free to roam’ or 'raised outside', when this is not the case, the pictorial representation may be misleading.
Real case study: The ACCC took action against a duck meat producer in relation to false and misleading statements that its duck meat products were open range when the ducks were raised solely in indoor sheds. The producer was found to have made misrepresentations on its packaging, website, delivery trucks, signage and merchandise through written and pictorial representations. The producer was ordered to pay costs and penalties of $375 000.
Real case study: Two businesses in the chicken meat processing and supplying industry made false or misleading claims in breach of the ACL by describing on product packaging and in advertising that its meat chickens were ‘free to roam in large barns’ when this was not the case.
The Federal Court ordered the two companies to pay a total of $400 000 in civil pecuniary penalties.
Real case study: The Federal Court found that a duck meat supplier engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and made false claims by using words on its packaging, website and brochures that its ducks were ‘grown and grain fed in the spacious Victorian Wimmera Wheatlands’ and/or ‘range reared and grain fed’.
The ACCC argued that these descriptions represented that the ducks, amongst other things, spend a substantial amount of time outdoors when this was not the case.
The company was ordered to pay a penalty of $360 000 and publish corrective advertising.
Not tested on animals
Some businesses claim their product has not been tested on animals. These claims can be in the form of pictorial representations (such as an animal with a prohibited symbol) or various phrases such as ‘not tested on animals’ or ‘cruelty free’.
Whether any specific claim of this nature is misleading or deceptive will always depend on the context and how the claim is made.
Businesses should make sure their claims are clear and accurate so that consumers have the ability to make an informed decision about a product.
Businesses should take care when making general claims about their position on animal testing, as this may give consumers an incorrect impression about whether any of the business’ specific products are tested on animals.
For example, claims such as ‘against animal testing’ may be too vague, as it doesn’t clearly communicate to the consumer whether the specific product has been tested on animals. Similarly, claims such as ‘not tested on animals unless required by law’, when the business also sells its products in countries that do require animal testing, may also be unclear or misleading to a consumer.
Businesses that choose to make claims about animal testing should therefore ensure that the claims are as clear and accurate as possible and do not constitute misleading or deceptive conduct or false claims.