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Roadmap to improve the welfare of farm animals in the UK

Press release issued: 14 April 2010

A new collaborative project led by the University's Department of Clinical Veterinary Science aims to secure the well-being of millions of farm animals for years to come.

Awareness about farm animal welfare has grown considerably as consumers become more concerned about the animals' quality of life and the safety of food.  A new collaborative project aims to secure the well-being of millions of farm animals for years to come, thanks to a £2.7 million grant by the Tubney Charitable Trust.

The five-year project, led by the University of Bristol's Department of Clinical Veterinary Science together with the RSPCA and the Soil Association, hopes to overcome fundamental problems of welfare assessment that have hampered the ability of assurance schemes to improve farm animal welfare in recent years.

The project aims to ensure the current welfare inspection and certification schemes, which look at the quality of life of individual and groups of animals, are developed as an assurance tool to further improve welfare in all farming systems in the UK and beyond.

The project has two goals:

  • to deliver the best welfare assurance within RSPCA Freedom Food and Soil Association certification schemes, and;
  • to promote the uptake of outcome-based assurance within UK and European farm assurance schemes.

The objectives within the first goal aim to improve the welfare of animals on RSPCA Freedom Food and Soil Association farms.  The knowledge gained through the use of welfare outcome assessments on RSPCA Freedom Food and Soil Association farms will ensure the project achieves the wider objectives relating to the second goal.  Welfare outcome assessments take into account both the physical and mental well-being of animals to give a more accurate picture of the quality of life from the animals' point of view.

Dr David Main, Head of Division of Farm Animal Science at Bristol University, said: "The shared vision is that all assurance schemes, with RSPCA Freedom Food and the Soil Association Certification leading the way, use welfare outcome assessments to ensure animals have the best quality of life.

"This project is the most important contribution to farm animal welfare for some time and we hope it will influence the future delivery of farm assurance for years to come."

Dr Marc Cooper, Senior Scientific Officer at the RSPCA's Farm Animals Department, added: "This project will revolutionise the way in which the RSPCA's farm assurance scheme, Freedom Food, delivers and ensures improved farm animal welfare. Welfare Outcomes Assessment, which offers a structured way to measure welfare, will provide valuable information to ensure the RSPCA welfare standards continue to deliver good welfare on farms."

Chris Atkinson, Head of Standards at the Soil Association, said:  "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."

René Olivieri, Chair of The Tubney Charitable Trust, said: "This collaborative project is extremely significant and has the potential to radically transform the well-being of millions of farmed animals in the UK and elsewhere. We are proud to have supported this important project which represents a step change in the systems of assessment. We are tremendously impressed by the project team which covers all bases: credibility, influence, practical knowledge and commitment -- all of these can help transform farm animal welfare now and for the future."


Further information

The Tubney Charitable Trust is a grant making charity seeking to support activities that have a long term, sustainable, positive impact on the biodiversity of the UK and on the welfare of farmed animals both in the UK and internationally. 

The Trust does not accept unsolicited applications.

The University of Bristol's Department of Clinical Veterinary Science is responsible for the clinical training of veterinary surgeons in companion animal medicine and surgery, farm animal science and welfare, and veterinary public health.  Clinical training revolves around animal patients that are referred to the hospitals and practices at Langford by veterinary practitioners in the Southwest.  The Department has dairy and sheep enterprises at the adjacent Wyndhurst Farm and these are used extensively in husbandry, welfare and clinical teaching.

The Department has a major commitment to research projects aligned to animal welfare. 

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is the leading animal welfare charity.  The RSPCA as a charity will, by all lawful means, prevent cruelty, promote kindness to and alleviate suffering of all animals. 

The Soil Association is the UK's leading environmental charity campaigning for sustainable, organic farming and championing human health.

Please contact Joanne Fryer for further information.
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