Melbourne Law School - Research Publications

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    How Free Is Sow Stall Free? Incremental Regulatory Reform and Industry Co-optation of Activism
    Carey, R ; Parker, C ; Scrinis, G (WILEY, 2020-07-01)
    This article critically examines how interactions between social movement activism, supermarkets, and the pork industry led to the voluntary adoption of “sow stall free” standards in Australia. We “backwards map” the regulatory space behind “sow stall free” products to show how the movement against factory farming became selectively focused on the abolition of one form of confinement for sows, rather than other forms of confinement and the conditions of the sows’ offspring, the piglets that are consumed. We argue that this facilitated an incremental shift to “sow stall free” production, allowing the concept of pig welfare to be corporatized in a way that maintains the dominant model of factory farmed pig meat production.
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    Out of the Cage and into the Barn: Supermarket Power Food System Governance and the Regulation of Free Range Eggs
    Parker, C ; Scrinis, G (Griffith University Law School, 2014)
    The highly concentrated nature of food retailing in Australia gives supermarkets considerable control over the interface between consumers and producers. Legal and regulatory commentary debates what can and should be done about the market dimensions of supermarket power. This article shows that Australian supermarkets are amassing not only economic power but also political power in the food system. The article makes this argument by reference to two major supermarkets’ initiatives in the regulatory space around food labelling, specifically the contested meaning of free range eggs. The article examines how the supermarkets are using their market power to create private standards for suppliers of own brand products that set the meaning of ‘free range’ for consumers too. This entrenches supermarkets’ market share as well as their political power as food authorities.
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    Front-of-Pack Food Labeling and the Politics of Nutritional Nudges
    Scrinis, G ; Parker, C (Wiley, 2016)
    This paper examines the potential for new front-of-pack nutrition labelling initiatives to “nudge” consumers towards healthier food choices. The libertarian-paternalist approach to policy known as nudge initially developed by Thaler and Sunstein is discussed, with its emphasis on designing spaces (including the space of the food label) to shape the behaviour of individuals while not restricting consumer choice or imposing restrictions or penalties on producers. In the context of concerns over diet-related chronic diseases and obesity, new front-of-pack interpretive nutrition labels have been proposed or implemented in an attempt to shift consumer dietary choices, including the multiple traffic light labelling system (MTL) in the U.K. and the Health Star Rating (HSR) system in Australia. We identify some of the characteristics, the underlying nutritional philosophies and the limitations of these front-of-pack labelling schemes. We suggest that the potential of these schemes is compromised by the co-existence on the food label of many other forms of nutrition information and food marketing. Some alternative ways of labelling and communicating the nutritional quality of foods are also discussed.
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    Can the Hidden Hand of the Market be an Effective and Legitimate Regulator?: The Case of Animal Welfare Under a Labeling for Consumer Choice Policy Approach
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; De Costa, J ; Scrinis, G (Wiley, 2017)
    In Australia, labeling for consumer choice, rather than higher government regulation, has become an important strand of the policy approach to addressing food animal welfare. This paper illustrates the usefulness of “regulatory network analysis” to uncover the potentials and limitations of market‐based governance to address contentious yet significant issues like animal welfare. We analyzed the content of newspaper articles from major Australian newspapers and official policy documents between 1990 and 2014 to show how the regulatory network influenced the framing of the regulatory problem, and the capacity and legitimacy of different regulatory actors at three “flashpoints” of decisionmaking about layer hen welfare in egg production. We suggest that the government policy of offering consumers the choice to buy cage free in the market allowed large‐scale industry to continue the egg laying business as usual with incremental innovation and adjustment. These incremental improvements only apply to the 20 percent or so of hens producing “free‐range” eggs. We conclude with a discussion of when and how labeling for consumer choice might create markets and public discourses that make possible more effective and legitimate regulation of issues such as layer hen welfare.
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    A Public Appetite for Poultry Welfare Regulation Reform: Why Higher Welfare Labelling is not Enough
    Parker, C ; Scrinis, G ; Carey, R ; Boehm, L (Sage Publications, 2018)
    This article argues that the growth of free-range labelled egg and chicken shows that the public wish to buy foods produced via higher welfare standards. It summarises the main reasons for dissatisfaction with the current regulation of animal welfare standards in Australia and shows that labelling for consumer choice is not enough to address public concerns. It critically evaluates the degree to which recently proposed new animal welfare standards and guidelines for poultry would address these problems and concludes that the new standards are not sufficient and that more responsive, effective and independent government regulation of animal welfare is required.
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    The Meat in the Sandwich: Welfare Labelling and the Governance of Meat-chicken Production in Australia
    Parker, C ; Carey, R ; Scrinis, G (Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2018)
    This article critically examines the degree to which higher-animal welfare label claims change animal welfare regulation and governance within intense meat-chicken ('broiler') production in Australia. It argues that ethical labelling claims on food and other products can be seen as a 'governance space' in which various government, industry and civil society actors compete and collaborate for regulatory impact. It concludes that ethical labelling can act as a pathway for re-embedding social concerns in the market, but only when it prompts changes that become enshrined in standard practice and possibly the law itself. Moreover, the changes wrought by ethical labelling are small and incremental. Nevertheless, labelling may create ongoing productive tension and 'overflow' that challenges the market to listen to and accommodate actors (including animals) on the margins to create ongoing incremental changes.