Farmers do not own the word meat, inquiry told

Farmers do not own the word meat, inquiry told

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Vegan and animal welfare groups claim consumers are not being confused by the labelling of plant-based foods. Graphic: Animal Liberation Queensland.

Vegan and animal welfare groups claim consumers are not being confused by the labelling of plant-based foods. Graphic: Animal Liberation Queensland.

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Vegans and animal welfare groups have challenged farmers' ownership of the word "meat".

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Vegans and animal welfare groups have challenged farmers' ownership of the word "meat".

Speaking before the Senate inquiry into food labelling today, vegan groups also claimed the red meat industry's hidden agenda in forcing the inquiry to be held was to "prop up their profits".

The inquiry is looking into the fake meat debate and whether labelling needs to be changed to better identify plant-based products.

On Friday morning, the inquiry chaired by Senator Susan McDonald, heard from four groups who all said there was no confusion among consumers and there was no need for labelling to be changed.

In a submission to the inquiry, Animal Liberation Queensland said the words meat, beef, chicken and sausage "are not owned by the Australian meat industry".

The group claims the term "meat" originated from the Old English word "mete", which meant "food" or "meal".

The groups appearing this morning said plant-based products have adopted the words beef, chicken, fish, sausages, milk, cheese etc. to describe the product flavour they resemble.

Vegan Australia director Greg McFarlane said livestock industries were on the defensive because they feared lost market share.

"The real goal of those seeking change is to prop up profits," Mr McFarlane told the inquiry.

No Meat May co-founder Ryan Alexander said Australians eat an unhealthy amount of meat.

"More and more Australians want to reduce meat consumption."

He said the numbers of people taking part in their month-long avoidance of meat had doubled each year since it was established in 2013.

Mr Alexander said more and more Australians were seeking "meat-free" or "meat-less" alternatives and this shift in consumer behaviour was being driven by informed consumers making educated choices.

"It will continue irrespective of labelling or any attempt by industries with a financial interest to censor labels."

He also said there was a growing body of evidence pointing to a more plant-based diet as one of our most powerful defences against several chronic diseases, especially heart disease.

Michelle Gravolin from Vegan NSW said there had been a cultural shift away from the consumption of animals.

"The increased popularity of plant-based foods is actually an opportunity for Australia's primary producers."

WA Senator Glenn Sterle said to him "meat was meat" and the definition of plant-based alternatives could be clearer.

Senator McDonald said the inquiry had heard the numbers of people making complaints about being confused by labels to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was higher than claimed in a ACCC submission.

"We plan to ask them to explain that," she said.

"They (complaints) must have been lost in their system."

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