According to a paper seen by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture Christian Schmidt wants to extend the type of labelling currently in place for egg-laying hens to other animals, starting with pigs.
The number system on eggs informs consumers about the conditions in which the hens are kept – the number one for free-range and three for battery hens, for instance.
To avoid “negative communication,” the proposed state label would be voluntary and applicable to animals reared in good conditions only. There would be no label alerting consumers to manufacturers or producers engaging in poor animal husbandry.
According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, breeding, transportation and slaughter conditions would be taken into account and private inspectors would certify farms.
The intention is to eventually extend this to poultry and cattle for both meat and dairy products.
A government spokesperson has said the logo would be "comparable to the state organic seal" but the official document has not been released.
It is expected that Schmidt will announce more details at the Grüne Woche trade show in January 2017.
FoodWatch opposes the proposed logo, saying it will create a two-tier system for consumers and normalise poor rearing conditions.
“A voluntary label means that a choice is made between animal quality and animal welfare,” says the campaign group.
It cites figures from Scientific Advisory Council for Agricultural Policy, an independent body which supports and advises the food ministry (Bmel). It predicted a maximum market share for the animal welfare label of around 20%.
The campaign group had launched an online petition, prior to reports of Schmidt's logo, demanding that no animal product be allowed to enter the market if it has not been produced in accordance with strict animal welfare standards.
"We’re claiming for a substantial change in livestock farming – on the basis of legal obligations, not on voluntary procedures," a spokesperson said.
An open letter addressed to the food and agriculture minister as part of the petition reads (in German): "Voluntary initiatives cannot be the solution because economic interests are always carried out at the expense of animals, as long as they are not protected against competition by clear and consistently enforced statutory requirements. If we use them, then we owe to all animals a proper housing - from breeding to transport and slaughter."
So far the petition has gathered over 63,000 signatures.