It is often said that the UK has the highest standards in farm animal welfare, and that they must be held as sacrosanct post-Brexit. But with significant investment occurring in livestock agriculture in many other parts of the world, accelerating the rate of adoption of new technology and improved husbandry practices, can we still claim that the UK has the highest welfare standards?
We recently caught up with David Main
and Jim Reynolds
who will be speaking at next month's Discussion Forum
, to gain some insight into what inspired them to get involved in the debate on UK farm welfare, and what to expect from their session.
AWF: What sparked your interest in the topic?
Welfare is a fundamental aspect of medicine, but we have tended to think of welfare as a separate entity. I’ve been a clinical bovine veterinarian for many years and I realized, when issues of farm animal welfare were initially being raised, that nearly all the medical and other problems animals had on my client’s farms related to welfare.
David: For me it is the opportunity, post-Brexit, to define unique features of UK agriculture.
AWF: Why is this topic particularly relevant now?
The idea of what level of welfare animals should have has always been relevant. The dynamic has always been between what it is and what it should be. Animal advocates want improvement and farmers want to know what the standards are and when animal advocates will be satisfied. However, what is exciting right now is that there is a better understanding of how to frame these questions and a better knowledge of what animals want and need to have good lives.
David: Brexit has made an already relevant topic incredibly relevant. It has encouraged policymakers to think about what is unique about livestock welfare standards in the UK. Also, recent comments made by the US ambassador about EU & UK farming have been pretty provocative!
AWF: What are the key issues of your topic?
- Animal welfare is a central component of medicine
- Welfare is the core of the ethical contract we have with animals that allows us to use them for food
- Improvement of welfare is a requirement to maintain the ethical under-pinning of our uses of animals
AWF: What are you hoping delegates will take away from your session?
- What makes a country’s welfare standards better? Is it legal obligations and enforcement, industry requirements, innovative examples etc?
- We have competition. New Zealand for example are aiming to be “world leading in on-farm animal care”.
To have an appreciation of the range of welfare on farms in different countries. And how advocacy for improvements in welfare (in the UK or otherwise) improves welfare globally.
David: The UK has an opportunity to be the best, but we must not sit on our laurels.
AWF: Are there any statistics, research, new developments or case studies that you can share with us about the topic?
New research is improving our understanding of the preferences of farm animals for factors that influence their affective states.
David: Please see this recent lecture of mine for my key arguments: https://youtu.be/K-ujThqZgHQ
AWF: What is your favourite thing about the Discussion Forum?
This is my first time at the Discussion Forum - I’m excited to hear and meet the speakers and delegates!
David: It’s always a great opportunity for networking and debating across species!
Discussion Forum tickets are still available. We look forward to seeing you there!