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A growing place given to Farm Animal Welfare at the International Farming Fair of Rennes, France (SPACE)

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A record 115,000 visitors attended the SPACE farming fair in Rennes, France last month. This international exhibition is dedicated to professionals working in animal production, and is the second most important fair of animal production worldwide (just after Eurotier in Germany).

Compassion’s team had a strong presence at the conference, and were encouraged to see that farm animal welfare is increasingly part of the programme of this annual event.

A conference titled “Animal welfare: a new challenge for the competitiveness of our business” was held on the first day. The various panellists, including Carrefour France, the French National Union of Farmers, a consumer association, and two cooperatives of producers. All participants recognised the importance of farm animal welfare as a growing societal concern and as a business issue.

Amélie Legrand, Compassion’s Food Business Manager in France, attended this session and commented: “While economics remains understandably at the centre of the discussion, I felt that there was a clear shift towards a shared view that animal welfare doesn’t only generate costs to the business. As highlighted several times during the session, advancing farm animal welfare can also be a great way to create added value, and appears in this sense as a sustainable investment to meet growing consumer demand for high quality, ethical and sustainable food.”

Amélie was also invited to participate in a conference debate session hosted by the French Pig Technical Institute on “Changing pig production models in Europe, balancing cost requirements and social acceptability”. This gave Compassion the opportunity to present and discuss potential scenarios of reconciliation between economics and pig welfare, as an alternative to the further intensification of pig farming in France and beyond.

Amélie explained: “In France, intensive pig farming is the norm and higher welfare pig rearing systems (such as free-range or straw-based systems) are not well developed. The diversification of the production models will be key in facing the growing market demand for higher welfare food, making French pig production more sustainable in the long term by anticipating these societal evolutions. Better communication on the added value of higher welfare products is also a key component to secure higher welfare production in the long term.

In parallel, we also encourage and work with companies to take action to advance farm animal welfare in “conventional” farming, in order to benefit the highest number of animals and raise the baseline standards in pig production.”

Some examples were given during the presentation such as providing more efficient manipulable materials to pigs, using cage-free alternatives to the farrowing crate for lactating sows, or ending unnecessary painful procedures such as castration and teeth-clipping of piglets.