Report calls for major change in animal welfare rules
A NEW report from the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) has called for a major re-think on animal welfare from Government, farmers and retailers.
In its latest report, looking at farm animal welfare developments over the past 45 years, FAWC recommended key changes to existing welfare requirements as well as calling for a change in how farmers and policy makers view animal welfare.
Acknowledging the growing public interest in where food comes from and how it is produced, it recommends implementing an education programme about food and farming ‘from childhood’ as well as a new system of welfare labelling on meat products.
This would include establishing an independent verification system for animal welfare claims on food products as well as ensuring consumers are given information on the welfare of animals used to produce imported produce.
FAWC chairman professor Christopher Wathes said: “At present, the potential of market mechanisms that allow the concerned consumer to make an informed choice about food and other products from livestock is mostly unrealised.
“What is needed is education about food and farming and impartial information about farm animal welfare, including approval and verification of marketing claims about welfare standards above the legal minimum.”
The report admits it would be difficult to verify welfare claims on imported products, but suggests country of origin labelling is given prominence in order to provide consumers with as much information as possible.
It also calls for a change in the way welfare standards are classified, moving away from indicators of stress towards guidelines based on the animals’ ‘quality of life’.
The report said: “The minimum should be defined in terms of an animal’s quality of life over its lifetime on the farm, during transport, at gatherings and at the abattoir, including the manner of its death.
“Our proposal is that an animal’s quality of life can be classified as: a life not worth living, a life worth living and a good life.
“Giving an animal a life worth living requires good husbandry, considerate handling and transport, humane slaughter and, above all else, skilled and conscientious stockmen.”
It pays tribute to the improvements made by farmers since welfare legislation was first introduced in 1965 but said lack of profitability in the agricultural sector meant many farmers were still unable to invest in technology to help improve welfare.
The report was submitted to Ministers at Defra, the Welsh Assembly and The Scottish Government who will consider its recommendations in shaping future policy.
- The Government to act as the guardian of farm animal welfare
- Standards for a good life to be defined by an independent body
- Minimum welfare standards to be defined by an animal’s quality of life
- Stockmen to be educated and trained to a high standard about animal welfare
- Welfare assessment to be valid, feasible and rigorous with independent audit
- The food supply chain to show due diligence with marketing claims verified
- Citizens to be educated about food and farming from childhood
- Animal products to be labelled according to welfare provenance to provide consumer choice