Government urged to adopt animal welfare scheme

Farmers should be paid for adopting high levels of animal welfare, according to a new report.

The Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) has urged the Government to introduce a Welfare Stewardship Scheme in which farmers would be financially rewarded for adopting high standards of animal welfare.

The committee’s Report on Economics and Farm Animal Welfare assesses the relationship between economics and farm animal welfare and aims to identify “mechanisms by which economic drivers might be exploited to enhance farm animal welfare”.

Christopher Wathes, chairman of FAWC, said: “In investigating our subject, we have found that issues in economics are just as complex as those in science.
“We recognise that political decisions about the welfare of farm animals have to account for economics – in its broadest sense – as well as sociological, technical and other factors.”

He continued: “The report argues that economics can help us to understand the relationship between animal and human welfare.

“It considers both micro- and macro-economic questions about livestock farming and the quality of life of farm animals, i.e. those relating to profitability on the farm and trade, respectively.”

Professor Wathes concluded that: “FAWC‟s advice is that Government has a crucial role to play in maintaining an acceptable standard of farm animal welfare. The quality of life of farm animals cannot be left to the free market because economic forces are powerful and vested interests many-fold.”

He said a welfare stewardship scheme would ensure that the Government‟s objectives for the welfare of farm animals match those of citizens, including “many consumers and others in the food supply chain”.

The report calls on DEFRA to speak to Farm Assurance providers to explore how such a scheme could be delivered efficiently and to use lessons learnt from administering agri-environmental schemes.

It recognises that most farmers are “not simply profit maximisers” and their decisions that determine the welfare of their animals are subject to many other influences. “Thus, there is no clear relationship between farm profitability per se and animal welfare,” it says.