Better for Animals
The highest animal welfare standards
Animal welfare is one of the most important aspects of organic farming, and ensuring that animals reared for meat and animal products have a good life is at the heart of the Soil Association’s organic standards.
These standards insist that animals are given plenty of space and fresh air, and are raised in conditions that suit their natural behaviour. As well as requiring that animals are genuinely free-range, living conditions, food quality, the use of antibiotics, as well as transport and slaughter are also covered.
In fact the Soil Association has the highest standards for animal welfare of any farming system in the UK.
Organic standards mean that animals on organic farms:
- Must have access to pasture (when weather and ground conditions permit) and are truly free range.
- Must have plenty of space (indoors and outdoors) – which helps to reduce stress and disease. Farmers must always provide enough light, space and comfort to allow farm animals to move and express their natural behaviours, like dust-bathing, perching and grazing.
- Are fed a diet that is as natural as possible and free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Over a million tonnes of GM crops are imported each year to feed the majority of non-organic livestock which produce chicken, eggs, pork, bacon, milk, cheese etc. This practice is banned under organic standards.
- Graze and forage naturally on organic pasture (grasses and other crops) where only natural fertilisers are used and pesticides are severely restricted.
- Must not routinely be given antibiotics. Organic farming standards ban the routine use of all antibiotics and wormers; an animal is only treated with medicine if it is sick. In 2017, farm animals accounted for around 30% of all antibiotics used in the UK. Reducing routine antibiotic use helps minimise antimicrobial resistance and protects the effectiveness of these treatments.
By providing the space and environments that animals need, organic farmers can reduce stress and disease (and their consequent side effects) on their farms. This means that animals don’t need to undergo painful mutilations (like beak trimming and tail docking), and it means that there is no need for preventative antibiotics.
Organic vs Free-Range – what’s the difference?
Free-range, caged, barn eggs or organic? Egg labelling can be confusing and sometimes it’s hard to know what the difference is. In the UK we consume more than 12 billion eggs a year – only 2% of these are organic whereas up to 47% of them come from free-range hens. Find out more about what the difference is between organic & free-range eggs.