If this perception is true, choosing higher-welfare animal products over intensively-produced animal products could be expected to have a beneficial effect on consumers’ health, with potential implications for dietary advice and opportunities for the marketing of higher-welfare animal products on the basis of nutritional advantages.
Eating the Planet
The escalating demands of a growing and increasingly affluent world population are putting the natural world under mounting pressure. Human use of land, along with climate change, is undermining the Earth’s ability to deliver vital life-support services.
Maximising yields and expanding cropland at all costs, irrespective of the impact on the animals, people and the planet, is not necessary to feed the world now and in the future. Abandoning environmentally damaging intensive farming will not jeopardize future world food supplies, especially if people in developed countries adopt healthier, lower-meat diets.
Beyond Factory Farming
Factory farming of animals for food is resource-hungry and carbon-intensive. A creation of the second half of the 20th century in the developed world, it depends on high inputs of global natural resources – energy, water and land. Sixty billion animals (poultry and mammals) are used to produce food annually1and over 50% of pigmeat and 70% of chickenmeat is already industrially produced.2, 3 Industrial systems have been increasing at six times the rate of traditional mixed farming systems.4 Policymakers now predict that meat production will double by 2050, potentially doubling the number of animals used to 120 billion a year. The planet will not be able to sustain these huge numbers of livestock nor these methods.
Farm Assurance Schemes and Animal Welfare
How the standards compare
Certification has an important role to play in encouraging and monitoring compliance with legal requirements, as well as enabling consumers to choose ethically produced food.
Most animals farmed in the UK are reared in accordance with the standards of farm assurance schemes, yet these can vary greatly in their requirements for how animals are kept and cared for. This report looks in detail at the welfare standards of the major farm assurance schemes in England and Scotland to see how they compare to each other and to the minimum welfare standards commonly adopted within the UK farming industry.
The schemes were analysed on their performance on a range of criteria grouped into five sets:
- Environment (referring to the animals’ environment)
- Stockmanship, handling, transport & slaughter
- Genetics & breeding
The Soil Association performs best overall across all species covered by the analysis and The Scottish Organic Producers Association and RSPCA schemes also offer significant welfare benefits compared with minimum legal requirements and standard industry practice for all species.
The Red Tractor, Quality Meat Scotland, Lion Code and Scottish Finfish Code schemes, however, generally offer few welfare benefits beyond compliance with minimum legal requirements and standard industry practice in the UK. They do, however, often offer significant welfare benefits over minimum legal requirements in other countries.
There is still significant room for improvement for all of the schemes – no scheme currently achieves a gold rating overall for any species.
It is recommended that all of the schemes work towards incorporating assessment of welfare outcomes into their standards, including targets for key outcome measures. Compassion welcomes the positive action the RSPCA Freedom Food, Soil Association and the University of Bristol are taking to develop and pilot the use of a welfare outcomes assessment.
To find out more read the report:
- Farm Assurance Schemes & Animal Welfare: Executive Summary
- Farm Assurance Schemes & Animal Welfare: Full Report
- Farm Assurance Schemes & Animal Welfare: Report Appendices