RSPCA Says Welfare is a Healthy Investment

UK - A new RSPCA review of the European Union's rural development programmes (RDPs), that provide funds to farmers for animal welfare improvements, has highlighted reductions in animal health and welfare problems.
calendar icon 30 October 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

The review entitled, 'Targeted Help', is the first of its kind and was launched at the Commission conference on rural development in Cyprus recently.

Animal welfare organisation, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said it hopes the findings will help to highlight the benefits of animal welfare programmes to other countries, and encourage them to take up the scheme.

Animal Welfare Payments: a Healthy Investment

"This is the first review of an animal welfare programme under the CAP"
David Bowles, RSPCA's head of external affairs.

The EU's farm subsidy system, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), is over 50 years old but a structured system of payments to reward animal welfare has only been in existence since 1999.

These payments aim to aid good animal welfare practices through measures such as modernising farming systems and buildings, and help with marketing products made under higher welfare systems.

"This is the first review of an animal welfare programme under the CAP," said David Bowles, RSPCA's head of external affairs.

"This review looks specifically at RDPs in Scotland and shows the clear benefits of such a programme. It is hoped the programmes coming on stream now will provide additional data and information in the future.

"It is an encouraging sign that, among others, both farmers and veterinarians questioned in the review said there has been reductions in animal health and welfare problems."

The review made the following conclusions.

  • Positive impact on farmers' perceptions
    The programme had a positive impact on farmers' perceptions of animal welfare. There was an apparent shift in farmer spending from disease treatment to spending on preventive medicine, with a reported decline in the number of cases of disease.

  • Economic and animal health and welfare benefits
    Both farmers and vets reported the first signs of economic and animal health and welfare benefits, although differences between livestock systems were identified. Economic benefits seemed to be more evident for beef cattle and sheep livestock systems than for dairy farmers.

  • Improved farmer and vet connection is vital
    The review also states that improved connection between farmer and vet is imperative. But it identified challenges to have sufficiently trained vets with the specialised knowledge and willingness to foster a partnership approach in Scotland, as the country is experiencing a decline in rural veterinary services.

David Bowles added, "Our review recognised improvements have occurred that would not have been seen if left to market forces, particularly as transmission of animal welfare attributes through the marketing chain are not easily available for species such as sheep and dairy cattle."

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