In both Australia and the EU it is often assumed that political consumerism can be used to resolve difficult policy conflicts. Citizens are encouraged to govern the market through their consumer choices. Activists and social entrepreneurs use the creation and contestation of label claims as a mechanism for mobilising citizens and creating transparency, debate and transformation of production systems.
In this talk, Professor Christine Parker will critically investigate the role of food labelling and its contestation as a governance pathway towards healthy, sustainable, fair food systems, using the results of a three year empirical socio-legal research project of higher animal welfare labelling in Australia as a case study. In Australia higher welfare and free range labels now dominate the market for egg, pig and chicken products and have become the subject of extraordinary levels of public attention and concern. Moreover the Australian government lags behind the EU in keeping up with the challenge of managing the complex issues arising from animal welfare science, citizen concern and interrelated environmental and health and safety impacts of intense animal agriculture.
Yet the EU also relies on labels to a large degree to resolve complex issues about animal welfare. This paper will show how the creation and contestation of food label claims (in this case higher welfare claims) can expand the range of voices and actors involved in governing the food system thus potentially expanding democratic capacity via networked governance. Yet at the same time it can also over simplify, de-contextualise and sentimentalise single issues, thus decreasing the potential for holistic consideration of multiple complex ethical, environmental, health and welfare dimensions of food production and supply. The paper suggests that the critical examination of the food label as a governance pathway can help us identify the ways in which the food system is currently governed by a network of actors (government, business, civil society…) and the gaps in governance that should be addressed if we are to address the challenge of creating a healthy, sustainable, fair food system.
Biography Christine Parker
Christine Parker is a Professor of Law at University of Melbourne where she teaches corporate social responsibility and business regulation, legal ethics, food law and policy and animal law. Professor Parker is a socio-legal regulatory studies scholar who has written and researched on how and why business comply with legal, social and environmental responsibilities, and what difference regulatory enforcement makes. Her books include The Open Corporation: Business Self-Regulation and Democracy (2002) on corporate social responsibility, business compliance systems and democratic accountability of companies; and Explaining Compliance (2011, with Vibeke Nielsen). She has also written Inside Lawyers’ Ethics (with Adrian Evans, 3rd edn, 2018), an influential social critique and text on lawyers’ role and conduct. Professor Parker’s current research focuses on the politics, ethics and regulation of food labelling and sustainable, healthy, fair food systems. She is currently writing up the results of a project examining the possibilities for food labelling to increase democratic engagement with and governance of the food system. She is also working on a new project (with Professor Fiona Haines) that asks how regulatory scholarship can better respond to the ecological crisis now facing our world and our governance systems alongside social and economic crises.