An infographic published today by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) paints an over simplistic view of animal welfare on pig farms, the NPA has warned.
The infographic, which can be downloaded here, sets out the BVA’s priorities for farm animal welfare and indicates, in its view, whether or not the schemes address these priorities in their standards.
All seven schemes in the infographic meet the criteria for three of these priorities – they are all underpinned by veterinary expertise, support responsible use of antimicrobials and have measures in place to prevent the spread of disease, the association said. In addition, all those that do provide assurance for slaughter require animals to be stunned before slaughter, which is a policy priority for BVA.
However, under a welfare priority that gauges whether a scheme ‘prohibits environments that substantially reduce behavioural opportunity’, Red Tractor gets a cross (as opposed to a tick), along with Quality Meat Scotland and Lion Eggs. In its explanation, the BVA’s infographic highlights the use farrowing crates for sows, from pre-birth until weaning.
BVA president John Fishwick said: “The provenance and welfare credentials of our food is becoming increasingly important in our shopping choices. More and more people want to know about the health and welfare credentials of the animal-derived food they buy such as meat, eggs and dairy products.
“Vets can help the public engage with farm assurance schemes and make informed choices about how to use them in line with their own views on ethics and sustainability.”
He insisted the infographic was not intended to be a league table but to allow people to understand what aspects of animal health and welfare are addressed by assurance schemes ‘so that they can decide which scheme best aligns with their own individual preferences and priorities’.
“We very much hope that this infographic raises awareness of the value of farm assurance schemes and proves to be a useful tool when choosing and buying food,” he added.
But NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We are concerned this infographic could mislead consumers on the realities of pig production and the complex factors surrounding animal welfare.
“Farrowing crates are used across the pig industry for very important reasons, not least to protect piglets from being crushed by their mothers. We would not want consumers to think that farms that use farrowing crates should somehow be equated with lower welfare. That is not the case.
“As we have always maintained, whether a farm is large or small or whatever system is deployed, the most important factor in the welfare of the pig is the quality of husbandry.”