Research performed by AWI suggests that Country of Origin Labeling (“COOL”) may reduce the suffering of animals by curbing the long-distance transport of animals from Canada and Mexico. In 2008, the United States adopted this mandatory labeling scheme to facilitate informed purchasing decisions by consumers.
AWI has found that since the start of COOL, many US slaughterhouses have stopped processing Canadian or Mexican livestock because of the increased cost of segregating the foreign animals. This has benefitted farm animals by dramatically reducing the number of live animals transported into the country. For example, the number of pigs imported into the United States from Canada steadily decreased from 10 million in 2007 to 5.8 million in 2011. Similarly, the number of live cattle imported from Canada dropped from 1.4 million in 2007 to 0.7 million in 2011.
COOL has been so effective in reducing the number of animals brought into the United States that Canada and Mexico complained to the WTO, which found in November 2011 that COOL violated rules against technical barriers to trade. The Obama administration is currently appealing the decision. COOL is supported by farmers and consumer groups, but opposed by large meat companies.