26 July 2002

Organic welfare under threat

VETS believe that the ban on the use of conventional medicines routinely for disease prevention in organic livestock systems has a negative impact on animal welfare, according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted by Reading University researcher Malla Hovi, elicited responses from 157 vets, 31 organic inspectors from three certification bodies and 36 organic consultants and asked respondents to comment on the impact of 20 organic standards on animal health and welfare.

"Overall, respondents felt most of the standards would have a positive impact on wefare. However, two were considered to have a negative impact by most vet respondents.

Disease prevention

"The prohibition on use of conventional medicines, such as antibiotics, routinely for disease prevention was considered to have a negative impact on welfare by 82% of vet respondents."

Similarly, 74% of vets felt the three strikes and youre out rule -where an individual animal loses its organic status when treated more than three times with conventional medicines, except vaccinations and parasite treatments, in one year – would cause a deterioration in animal welfare, according to Dr Hovi.

When asked what measures would improve animal welfare on organic farms, vets felt that herd health plans, training and advice for herdsmen would help.