An international livestock charity has raised concern at a government plan to abolish the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC).

An independent body set up in 1979, the council advises ministers on legislative and other changes regarding animal welfare on farms, at livestock markets, in transit and at the place of slaughter.

But FAWC’s days look numbered after it was included on a leaked list of 177 government quangos and committees due to be abolished as part of this autumn’s comprehensive spending review.

Philip Lymbery, chief executive of the charity Compassion in World Farming, said he had mixed feelings but would be dismayed if the decision signalled a downgrading of the importance of animal welfare within government.

“We have been increasingly confounded by some of the positions that FAWC has taken,” Mr Lymbery told Farmers Weekly. This included its apparent support for enriched cages for laying hens and advice on practices such as beak trimming.

But any downgrading of animal welfare would go against a surge in public opinion, Mr Lymbery warned. It would come at a time when the livestock sector was at risk of “over-industrialisation” from zero-grazing and super-dairies.