Farm Animal Welfare Council


Summary of open meeting on 14 June 2007

Welcome and opening remarks
Report on Stockmanship and Farm Animal Welfare
Report on a long term welfare strategy
Report on the economics of farm animal welfare
Report on slaughter of white meat species
General Questions and Discussion

Welcome and opening remarks

1.         Professor Wathes, the Chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), welcomed everyone.  He offered his thanks to those members of  FAWC who retired at the end of 2006.  He welcomed David Foot as the new FAWC Secretary and thanked Richard Aram for standing in after the retirement of Kumu Adhihetty last year.  The Council presently has 21 members (including the Chair) supported by a Secretariat of 4 staff.  Council would be recruiting specialists in animal breeding and education at the end of the year.  

2.         The Chairman gave an outline of the work of the Council as follows:

(i)         He said that in October 2006, for the first time, FAWC had developed and published its Strategic Plan which outlined the work of the Council from 2006-2010.

(ii)        The Welfare Labelling Report had been published in June 2006. This was  particularly timely because the issue of ethical consumerism was being debated in Europe.

(iii)       The Working Group on Stockmanship, under the chairmanship of Professor Peter English, had just published its report ‘Stockmanship and Farm Animal Welfare’.

(iv)       The proposed lamb Castration and Tail Docking Report had yet to be finalised and approved by the Council but was expected to be published later this year. 

(v)        10 letters had been sent to Ministers providing advice including advice on ventilation shutdown for the euthanasia of housed poultry.

(vi)       The second meeting of European FAWC  equivalents (EuroFAWC) had been held on 8/9 May 2007 in Brussels with attendees from 13 European countries and the European Institutions.  One of the key outcomes from the meeting was an understanding that the ethical analysis of animal welfare was much stronger in some European countries than others.

(vii)      The Liaison Group of Animal Welfare Advisory Bodies, consisting of FAWC, CAWC, APC and the Zoos Forum would be collaborating on a report to Ministers on welfare surveillance.

3.         The Chairman said that the website continued to be FAWC’s main method of communication with on average 4660 copies of reports being downloaded a month.  In total 12500 copies of the red meat slaughter and 8000 copies of the gatherings report had been downloaded.  The most popular page was the one relating to the Five Freedoms.

Report on Stockmanship and Farm Animal Welfare

4.         Mrs Meryl Ward introduced the report and thanked Professor English for chairing the stockmanship working group and all the individuals and organisations who had contributed.  She said that the report introduced the Three Essentials of Stockmanship and focussed on the role of stockmanship and not on individual production systems.  The report was timely because of structural changes in the sector such as part time farming, immigrant labour, the size of holdings and low profitability There was no single agency for information on the skills base and a lot of stockmanship skills went unrecorded.  FAWC had found good examples of groups providing support but a joined up approach was needed for education and continuous professional development.

5.         The working group had recommended that licensing of stockmen was not appropriate and was probably covered by existing legislation.  There was a detailed paragraph on how FAWC saw accreditation fitting into the industry.  Finally there were good reasons for public funding of stockmanship training.  It was not the case that insufficient funding was available but that access to it was difficult.  The report highlighted three case studies that provided examples of good practice.

6.         Mr Geoffrey Hollis- Drew Associates:  Asked if there was any evidence to suggest that stockmanship skills had declined.  FAWC reply:  The general consensus was that it had not declined but there was a danger that it could.  The level of training might suffer as a consequence of low profitability.

7.         Professor John McInerney:  Welcomed the report and asked for clarification as to why FAWC had not recommended compulsory certification for stockmen.  FAWC reply:  Its costs would be disproportionate and existing legislation was sufficient to ensure appropriate standards are maintained.

8.         Mr Ian Frood – Assured British Meat:  Congratulated FAWC on a good report which had identified shortcomings in the provision of training.  He agreed that there should not be compulsory licensing of stockmen.  However he felt that there should have been more emphasis on farm assurance.  FAWC reply:  This could only be demand led from within the industry.  The report had recommended that industry bodies and Lantra ensured that national occupational standards were fit for purpose in a deliverable format.  The funding for this was available but was difficult to access.

9.         Dr Alan Long – VEGA:  Said that he strongly dissented from the idea that stockmen should not be licensed.  They should have continuous professional development.  Standards must be higher with regular assessment.  He said that the school leaving age should be raised by one year to allow for a course on citizenship which could cover aspects of stockmanship.  FAWC reply:  Agreed that continuous professional development should be used in the industry.

Report on a long term welfare strategy

10.       Professor David Morton said that FAWC had been looking at an ethically based framework for farm animal welfare.  This included how welfare could be measured over time and how monitoring could be set up throughout the life of a farm animal.  To achieve this key welfare indicators (KWIs) would need to be established.  These could include input and output measures, health and welfare, mortality and morbidity, antibiotic usage, off farm measures including those at the slaughterhouse, such as the pathology of organs, as a measure of welfare during an animal’s lifetime.  Any KWIs should be specific, measurable, achievable, validated and assessed within a specific period.           

11.       Ms Rita Bloomberg VEGA:  Asked if FAWC was looking at pathology after death.  This might make use of the same technology that was used for humans such as MRIs etc.  FAWC reply:  There would be practical implications that would need to be addressed in order for the use of such technology to be feasible.  FAWC would recommend the use of research tools that could be correlated with other indicators measured at farm level.

12.       Dr Martin Potter:  Asked who would be doing this work at farm level and whether it would be the Meat Hygiene Service or Animal Health for example.  FAWC reply:  Anticipated that the farmer would do this with an independent audit to ensure credibility. 

Report on the economics of farm animal welfare

13.       Professor Sandra Edwards said that FAWC had set up a new working group to examine the economics of farm animal welfare.  The group would consider this topic at a range of different levels from the farm business through to international government policy.  Concern for animal welfare could be seen as a need to be satisfied with the way that animals were treated.  However, this did not always translate into a willingness of consumers to pay for this in the market.  Farmers had to make a profit which had the potential to impact adversely on animal welfare by reducing key inputs such as labour for example.  Better welfare would link to better animal performance.  If a link to a market advantage could then be made, it would improve profitability.  

14.       The working group had held its first meeting and would shortly be issuing a consultation document and holding a stakeholder meeting later in the year.  It was in the very early stages of receiving information and was not in a position to make any pronouncements.   

13.       Dr Alan Long – VEGA:  Asked if the group would be considering the new influences that had an effect on animal welfare i.e. the grocery market recognising the ethical shopper.  FAWC reply:  FAWC would be considering the wide economic framework of the issue.

Report on slaughter of white meat species

14.       Mr Lister said the report would be issued in 2008.  The remit of the investigation was to look at all white meat species.  FAWC was considering the handling of birds, transport, restraint, and the range of slaughter techniques.  There would be a consultation meeting with stakeholders before the report was published.  A draft would be presented to the Council in February 2008. 
15.       Dr Victoria Sandilands – Scottish Centre for Animal Welfare Science:  Asked if the report would include reference to the disposal of day old chicks.  FAWC reply: Confirmed that it would do so, along with casualty animals, culling on farm, and mass killing on farm for disease control.

16.       Ms Jade Spence – Humane Slaughter Association:  Asked whether the report would address training in on farm slaughter methods.  FAWC reply:  The report will deal with seasonal production and all areas of on farm slaughter.

General questions and discussion

17.       Mr Frank Momber – National Beef Association:  Said that the third of the Five Freedoms related to freedom from pain, injury and disease (by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment) and asked how this related to TB in cattle.  FAWC reply:  FAWC recognised that TB needed to be controlled and providing that cattle culling was humane the Council had no concerns.  There was pre-movement testing for cattle but it was important to acknowledge that both cows and badgers contributed to the spread of the disease.  The destruction of badgers was not the answer and was probably politically unacceptable.  A way needed to be found to control the disease that was both scientifically sound and that would satisfy public opinion.   

18.       Mr Geoffrey Hollis – Drew Associates:  Asked how an agreed level of measured welfare would sit with the Five Freedoms and whether they would be compatible.  For example, free range chickens could suffer from cannibalism, parasites, etc.  How would they compare with those kept in housed systems?  FAWC reply:  There was a tension between the ideals that had become known as the Five Freedoms and all systems of husbandry.  FAWC tried to appraise different systems of husbandry in terms of the severity of conditions and the number of animals affected.  FAWC agreed that animals should have a life worth living.

19.       Mr Masood Kawaja - Halal Food Authority :  Said that he did not recall the Authority being consulted on the castration and tail docking report.  He also commented that if food was derived from cloned animals then it should be labelled as such.  FAWC reply:  The last meeting with stakeholders for the draft lamb castration and tail docking report had been in December 2006.  On the second point, FAWC was opposed to routine cloning and had written to Ministers concerning the calf in the UK that had been derived from a cloned cow in the United States, which raised concerns about potential welfare problems.  Animal breeding, including cloning, was an important issue and the Council would be recruiting a specialist in animal breeding during its next recruitment round.  However, genetic modification was not practised commercially in the UK.  The United States Food and Drug Administration had, however, a draft position that stated that it would allow GM products to be marketed there.  This had stimulated discussion in both the UK and within the EU.

20.       Ms Rita Bloomberg – VEGA:  Asked if the FAWC Welfare Strategy would examine the stress of taking a calf away from its mother and the destruction of calves.  FAWC reply:  The Council was investigating the life expectancy of the dairy cow but the calf is not part of the study.    

21.       Mr M B Akande – Union of Muslim Organisations of UK and Eire:  Asked if FAWC had taken note of a report from the EU that would allow farmers to give pork derived feed to poultry.  FAWC reply:  Confirmed that the Council had not discussed this report from the EU.  FAWC would not be asked its opinion by Government because it was a food safety rather than an animal welfare issue. 

22.       Mr David Rose – National Council of Schechita Boards:  Said that he would be interested to see the EU proposal.  FAWC reply:  Repeated that the implications of feeding animal based matter to poultry is a food safety issue and not within FAWC’s remit.

23.       Dr Martin Potter- England Implementation Group:  Defra had funded Bristol University to undertake a project concerning broiler leg health and it had been two years since it had been completed.  New management practices could be introduced on the basis of the report and he asked whether FAWC would be commenting on it.  FAWC reply: The Council was not planning a response but would be looking at skeletal health within the context of the Strategic Plan.

24.       Professor John McInerney:  Said that the FAWC Farm Assurance Report had placed a great deal of emphasis on the retail sector to espouse animal welfare.  Was there any evidence that the recommendations had been taken up?  FAWC reply:  Council was awaiting the final Government response, following on from publication of an initial response on Defra’s Website and follow up by them with interested parties FAWC was developing its own dialogue with retailers.   
25.       Mr Charles Bourns- National Poultry Council of the National Farmers Union:  Said that supermarkets undertook spot inspections of poultry farms supplying them.  Consumers were becoming more welfare aware and supermarkets were very aware of consumer opinions. 

26.       Dr Alan Long - VEGA:  Said that VEGA was against mutilations, particularly the circumcision of bulls.  He also said that the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) was undergoing change and FAWC should make recommendations on which data is kept relevant to welfare.  There were a number of sanctuaries for farm animals which needed to be inspected.  FAWC reply:  The Council was not aware any proposals that would allow the circumcision of bulls.  The MHS would be a good source of data for key welfare indicators.  The monitoring of animal sanctuaries fell under the Animal Welfare Act.  There were proposals for the control of sanctuaries in Scotland.  

27.       Mr Lewis Grant – Meat Hygiene Service:  Said there was an MHS project to increase the efficiency of its data gathering for post mortem inspections.  By way of information he said that the MHS was organising an FVO Mission to the UK for 25 June.  This would be looking at slaughter for both red and white meat species.  Defra advisors would feed into the process.

Last modified 10 September, 2007
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