The UK’s four levy boards have launched a proposal to form a single, co-ordinated body to tackle sheep and cattle health and welfare.
The aim of the proposed UK-wide Ruminant Health and Welfare Group would be to create a joined-up approach to combating disease and provide a simpler setup that would help the UK to gain access to export markets.
It may also provide a united voice for the industry in the face of increasing pressure from anti-meat-eating campaign groups.
The four levy boards – AHDB, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales and Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland – are now calling for views within a consultation period on how to shape the proposed body.
A joint announcement said: “We would like to hear from businesses and trade organisations involved in the cattle and sheep industry [by 25 October].”
That includes farmers, processors, animal welfare groups, pharma businesses, academics and experts in the field of ruminant health and welfare, the statement said.
AHDB Dairy Board chairman Gwyn Jones said: “Domestically, we face challenges over health and welfare and continuing high levels of endemic disease, which erode reputation and public trust, as well as margins.
“In terms of export of meat and dairy, there is recognition that improving animal health and welfare status would enable the UK to access more markets.”
Mr Jones added: “Discussions have been taking place across the cattle and sheep industry and with UK governments during the past 12 months over how we can collectively accelerate the pace of progress on endemic disease in ruminants.
“There is broad agreement that a simpler, more co-ordinated approach to ruminant health and welfare is needed and that a united industry voice would be powerful and influential, in deciding spending priorities and championing innovation and best practice.
Red meat propaganda
Alan Clarke, from QMS, said: “Our farmers have some of the highest welfare standards across the globe, however, we are increasingly being faced with a backlash of ill-informed, anti-red-meat propaganda.
“The formation of this proposed group will help to strengthen the story we have to tell and enhance our high animal health and welfare standards.
“I’d encourage everyone across the industry to respond to the consultation to help form the next steps.”
You can find more details and take part in the consultation on the AHDB website.
The consultation closes at 5pm on Friday 25 October.