New five-year animal welfare project announced

16 April 2010

A ground-breaking project will secure the wellbeing of millions of farm animals in the UK.

“The Soil Association is delighted to have been awarded a grant by the Tubney Charitable Trust to run a five year project, in collaboration with the RSPCA and Bristol University,” says Chris Atkinson, the Soil Association’s head of standards.

“Many producers will know that we have been working with our partners for some time to develop better ways of assessing animal welfare. Producers know that just looking at the ‘fixtures and fittings’ doesn’t guarantee a good life for an animal. We all know that good husbandry makes so much difference. “We therefore need to develop an approach that allows good husbandry to shine through, but that can also help in deciding what to do when things are not quite right.”

Working with Soil Association Certification Ltd. and Freedom Food schemes, the new project will roll-out ‘outcome-based’ inspection processes and standards, and then promote this approach as best practice to farm assurance schemes throughout the UK – and further afield.

“Most of our organic standards are essentially ‘input’ standards, requiring producers to provide animals with certain resources, such as space, feed, and veterinary care,” explains Chris Atkinson. “Our inspections can easily check these things, but this approach doesn’t necessarily tell us enough about the effect of these resources on the welfare of the animal – in other words, the final ‘outcome’. An outcome-based approach puts livestock at the centre of the inspection process, taking account of both the physical and mental wellbeing of the animals and providing a more complete picture of farm animal welfare.”

Feedback, advice and support will be an integral part of the project: “We want producers to fully understand the inspection process, to benefit from the feedback that they will receive and to quickly manage any issues affecting welfare that may arise. This is a very exciting project indeed”.

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