The Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC), an expert group providing independent advice on the welfare of farmed animals, publishes its review of farm animal welfare and farm assurance schemes.
In 2005 the Farm Animal Welfare Council (the Committee’s predecessor advisory body) published a Report on the Welfare Implications of Farm Assurance Schemes. This review looks back to the conclusions and recommendations of that report; describes the impact that farm assurance schemes have made on farm animal welfare in the intervening period and makes proposals for a positive way forward.
The FAWC recommends:
- Governments should reinvigorate the drive to improve whole life farm animal welfare standards in their dealings with the private sector’s coverage of welfare through assurance schemes and through their public food procurement chains.
- Currently, farm assurance schemes have incomplete coverage and we call on scheme owners to encourage (in part by citing the added values we have identified) further participation in the non-assured; food service; and other sectors identified. This should incorporate all food chains including imported foods and all fresh and processed foods and ingredients.
- Governments require all scheme owners to make anonymised private and public inspection data fully transparent. All parts of the food chain and its governance will benefit from this development. The Governments should take the lead in this respect and start with their own inspection data.
- The recommendations in several of our previous reports in relation to welfare labelling and higher whole-life standards should be enacted. There may be potential in new welfare codes to embed such standards into formal documentation. Consumer communications should be a priority and subsequent demand can help to drive improvements.
- The schemes should begin to embrace animal focused welfare outcomes as a mainstay of their standards and ensure that all changes to standards are based on sound evidence.
- Scheme owners should seek to coordinate and if possible combine inspection visits to minimise the burden on farmers. This will involve scheme collaboration and the employment of inspectors/auditors who have qualifications recognised as equivalent.
- More attention should be paid to the welfare provenance and equivalence of imported fresh and processed product- particularly from third countries. We call again for the labelling of such products that fail to meet minimum UK welfare standards.
- It is important that auditors are independent, fully qualified and consistent in their approach. We also recommend that the skill base of stockpersons is regularly monitored, possibly though a certificate of competence or similar mechanism.
- We propose that to provide motivation for the development of farm assurance schemes as recommended above the Governments should follow the recommendations made in our Report on Education, Communication and Knowledge Application (2011) and initiate the formation of a dedicated focus within a public or private sector organisation. We are concerned that without a combination of regulatory, market and public (including third sector) forces there will be a loss of focus on animal welfare and the situation will remain confused for the consumer; over-inspected for the producer; and of marginal commercial advantage for the retailer. Worst of all, we would be less able to aspire to, let alone achieve, a good life for all farm animals.
Tuesday October 1, 2013/ FAWC-DEFRA/ United Kingdom.