Urgent reassurance is needed concerning the government’s decision to revoke its farm animal welfare codes says the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
Commenting on Defra’s decision to make the provision of welfare code guidance an industry-led process from now on, BVA has warned that the move “risks undermining public confidence in animal welfare standards” on English farms.
“When Defra consulted in 2013 on proposals to move away from statutory codes to non-statutory, industry-led guidance, BVA broadly supported more flexibility to allow for guidance to be updated more regularly,” said the Association, adding that it had also raised a number of questions regarding enforcement, critically around the definition of “industry”.
BVA also emphasised at the time that veterinary surgeons, farmers, animal welfare scientists with species-specific knowledge, industry bodies and other groups must all be involved and consulted.
“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,” said BVA president, Sean Wensley.
“Although we 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.
“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 new industry-led process is set to begin with the release of updated codes for meat chicken on April 27. This will be provided by the British Poultry Council.