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RSPCA to introduce new welfare system by early 2008

by 5m Editor
5 July 2007, at 1:16pm

UK - Following years of scientific research, the RSPCA is poised to pioneer a new way to improve the lives of farm animals. A new system to measure welfare standards could be implemented into its Freedom Food assurance scheme by early 2008.

The RSPCA is looking at new methods of assessing the physical condition and behaviour of farm animals to help farmers on the assurance scheme to ensure the wellbeing of their livestock. The welfare outcomes assessment procedure is currently being trialled on some FF-assured farms with pigs, laying hens and dairy cattle, before it is incorporated into the national livestock scheme.

The system has been developed through commissioned research at the University of Bristol and with RSPCA animal scientists. It measures welfare by focusing on key indicators of their health and well-being.

Dr Julia Wrathall, head of the RSPCA farm animal department, said the new developments are great news for animals adn livestock producers. "The RSPCA is very proud that we first commissioned the work on animal welfare outcomes many years ago. We are now hoping to use scientific research to add another dimension to the care provided to farm animals which will be unique to the Freedom Food scheme," she added.

She said that research and the Associations own experience on-farm, had identified key signs or ‘indicators’ of health and welfare for different farm animal species. By looking at the prevalence and nature of the various indicators during farm visits, RSPCA inspectors can gain an understanding of what might need to be changed in the animals’ environment or management in order to improve their welfare.

“This system is not all about finding potential problems - it will also help confirm that farmers are looking after their livestock well. It could help to identify potential problems at an early stage and allow them to be nipped in the bud,” said Dr Wrathall.

Many of the new assessment methods are common sense, however this is the first time they have been scientifically researched and dedicated to a comprehensive, objective system of measurement.

The RSPCA first commissioned the work on animal welfare outcomes in 1999.

5m Editor