THE majority of consumers think that the welfare standards of animals reared for food is important in their purchasing decisions, a new report from RSPCA Cymru has highlighted.
RSPCA Cymru has brought together for the first time a collection of indicators that provide an insight into the welfare issues surrounding animals that are reared for food in Wales.
The Animal Welfare and Food Indicators report – which has been published today – provides a snapshot of some of the most important farm animal welfare issues, including food labelling, non-stun slaughter, public sector procurement and live transport.
The report intends not only to benchmark and demonstrate ‘where we are’ with animal welfare in food production in Wales, but also makes a series of recommendations with the aim of improving the lives of farm animals in Wales.
In recent years, it is clear there has been growing concern in society regarding the treatment of animals in our food chain.
New polling from RSPCA Cymru found that a massive 80 percent* of Welsh adults said the welfare standards of the animals reared is important in their purchasing decisions.
Of those polled, 74 percent* recognised at least one of the four main labelling schemes in Wales which self-define as providing higher welfare food, including the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme.
RSPCA Cymru Head of External Affairs, Claire Lawson, said: “Increasingly, consumers want detailed information concerning how their food was produced. Many people in Wales consciously seek to tailor their shopping habits with the aim of buying higher welfare products. Better labelling, however, is vital to ensure people have the information they need to make an informed choice, and can purchase food that meets higher welfare standards.
“RSPCA Cymru believes ‘Method of Production’ labelling should be introduced for all meat and dairy products. This would place an emphasis on retailers to stock produce desired by their consumers.”
The report calls for an end to non-stun slaughter and more than 2,300 people have already signed the charity’s petition in Wales, backed by the British Veterinary Association, urging an end to it.
Current law in Wales requires animals to be stunned before slaughter, but exemptions exist for certain communities. Expert opinion outlines how non-stun slaughter compromises animal welfare, and RSPCA Cymru believes the Welsh Government should therefore end existing exemptions.
The charity also believes that the Welsh Government should introduce a requirement for all abattoirs in Wales to implement CCTV systems, to provide assurance and protect animals and staff. As of 2011, there were 23 abattoirs operating in Wales. According to the Food Standards Agency, only 17 percent of these had CCTV in the stunning or bleeding areas.
According to RSPCA Cymru’s poll, a massive 82 percent* of the public in Wales support the introduction of CCTV in all slaughterhouses, and 80 percent* of those polled support an end to non-stun slaughter, with 59 percent* strongly in favour of this move.
RSPCA Cymru also recommends that the collective aim for the Welsh Government, producers, campaigners and the public should be to keep all live transportation to a minimum and, indeed, to cease all long-distance transport of live animals in favour of a ‘carcase-only’ trade.
The report also explores the issue of public sector procurement and recommends that the Welsh Government should seek to mirror the National Assembly for Wales, which in September 2010 switched its procurement of egg and salmon products wholly to Freedom Food approved sources.
Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, said: “I welcome the publication of this new report from RSPCA Cymru, and am grateful for the work that they do alongside our farming communities, local authorities, and others, in the interests of farm animal welfare.
“The Animal Welfare and Food Indicators report, published today, clearly demonstrates that the people of Wales attach great importance to animal welfare standards when purchasing food.
“In July, I was delighted to launch the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework which sets out how the Welsh Government, the farming industry, and others, must work to deliver on our vision of continuing and lasting improvements in standards of animal health and welfare for kept animals, while also helping to protect public health and making a contribution to the economy and the environment.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the RSPCA and others in the interests of animal welfare in food production.”
To read the full report visit: http://goo.gl/3Myj82
*All polling figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,001 Welsh adults (aged 18+). Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th – 8th September 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Welsh adults (aged 18+).
To sign our petition calling for an end to non-stun slaughter – no exceptions, visit http://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/slaughter
Freedom Food is the RSPCA’s farm assurance and food labelling scheme. The Freedom Food label can be found on dairy, meat, poultry, salmon and trout products and it means the product has come from a farm inspected to higher welfare standards. There are 108 Freedom Food members in Wales covering approximately 1.5 million animals. For more information visit www.freedomfood.co.uk