Vets Concerned Over Move to Industry-Led Welfare Codes

UK - Vets have expressed concern after it was revealed that different farm sectors would gradually be taking over responsibility for guidance on farm animal welfare codes.
calendar icon 31 March 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

It has been widely reported that the guidance documents, which put welfare regulations into more practical codes, are being transferred to industry bodies because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) does not have the resources to update them.

The move is expected to start with the British Poultry Council taking over responsibility for chicken welfare guidance, followed by other sectors later.

But the British Veterinary Association warned that the decision risks undermining public confidence in animal welfare standards on farms and called for urgent reassurance.

Commenting, BVA President Sean Wensley, said: “It is essential that any changes to the welfare codes do not undermine public confidence in the high animal welfare standards set for English farms.

"Although BVA broadly supported the idea of moving to a more flexible system that could take account of new animal welfare science, we maintained that a range of expertise must be used to draw up new guidance."

The Association said that veterinary surgeons, farmers, animal welfare scientists with species-specific knowledge, industry bodies and other groups must all be involved and consulted in the making of the new guidance.

Mr Wensley went on: “We are pleased that there will be no changes to the legislation that underpins animal welfare but it is unclear where the checks and balances now lie. It is vital that Defra puts measures in place urgently to provide that reassurance.

“The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has suggested that it would be possible for the fundamental principles to be laid down in statutory codes which are subject to parliamentary scrutiny with operational details being set out in guidance.

"This idea may be worth further exploration to allow both the flexibility required to reflect new animal welfare science and the public confidence that the statutory welfare codes currently provide.”

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