Animal welfare has become an even more important consideration for consumers when buying food than human rights or protecting the environment, the RSPCA has claimed.

Some 57% of respondents in an Ipsos-MORI survey said animal welfare was an important issue to consider when buying a product, up from 48% a year ago.

Human rights and protecting the environment (both 55%) were the next most important. The report found 80% of the public agreed that for society to be truly civilised, animal welfare must be a key priority.

"There is growing demand for higher-welfare meat, eggs and dairy," said RSPCA head of external affairs David Bowles.

The RSPCA has also called for entries for this year's Good Business Awards, which recognise ethical approaches to animal welfare. Last year Waitrose and Abel & Cole were named overall winners, with Tesco collecting an innovation award for its sustainable dairy initiative.