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Britain can help Brussels with its welfare poser

by 5m Editor
29 June 2006, at 12:00am

UK - Britain is probably alone in being able to provide a solution to Europe’s animal welfare dilemma, reports the NPA's Digby Scott.

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National Pig Association
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The European Commission wants to see the development of ‘objective and measurable welfare indicators’. But although some research has been carried out on the subject, animal welfare remains notoriously difficult to measure.

Yorkshire producer Richard Longthorp noted recently (June Pig World) that seeing pigs up to their necks in mud during wet spells isn’t an attractive sight. ‘But often it is their choice because dry ground is available. It is easy to fall into the trap of looking at pig welfare through human eyes. I’ve seen pigs sleeping outside when it’s been -15C, even when there’s an empty ark only a few feet away; they are doing it because they want to. Perhaps the availability of choice is a key element here.

‘The question of what constitutes good welfare for pigs continues to tax me but I do know that good pig welfare is not the same thing as good human welfare.’ For an objective solution to its problem, the European Commission might wish to investigate the British solution, as developed by global operator Genesis Quality Assurance.

This involves assurance inspectors capturing data digitally and sending the information direct to an internet server. The Genesis system can then generate – almost instantaneously - reports on a farm’s health, welfare, environment and management. The information required by Brussels is already captured by the Genesis assurance system. To create a Europe-wide system, all Brussels has to do is decide which data should be extracted to create overall welfare indicators.

Britain has signalled that it would like any European initiatives on animal welfare to look at voluntary measures rather than legislation. David Miliband has stressed that legislative solutions are not the only option for improving welfare. Speaking at this month’s meeting of agriculture ministers, he highlighted the ‘good work’ in the United Kingdom on non-legislative solutions such as assurance schemes.

The PigSite Newsdesk

5m Editor