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Innovation, Knowledge Vital to Improve Welfare

by 5m Editor
6 October 2010, at 10:16a.m.

UK - The key to continued improvements in animal health and welfare will be innovation and knowledge throughout the farming sector, NFU vice president, Gwyn Jones, has told a conference of animal health experts.

Mr Jones addressed delegates at a conference entitled 'Animal Welfare: Improving the Provision of Animal Health and Welfare in England'.

He insisted that research centres, such as the Institute for Animal Health – which informed decision making during the Bluetongue outbreak of 2006 – must continue to receive support from both the industry and Government in order to provide scientific innovation which is needed to maintain our high standards of agriculture and food production. And he pledged that the NFU would resist any cuts or charges which would impact upon the competitiveness of the British food and farming sector.

Mr Jones said: "Britain's farms are at the heart of the challenges this country faces, not least the need for economic recovery.

"Our sector doesn't only feed the population, but can help fuel our cars and power the national grid. And, not forgetting the environment, we have more than six million hectares of land under active environmental management, with farmers across England and Wales playing their part to maintain our landscapes, protect our water resources and enhance our biodiversity.

"Agriculture is part of the solution, not part of the problem, and we see it very much as a sector leading the way to a profitable and sustainable food and environment sector."

Mr Jones paid tribute to the professionalism of British farmers who, he said, are seen as high welfare achievers by other Europeans. But he warned that the concept of sharing responsibility and costs between Government and the livestock keeper will only work if there is a balance between costs and responsibility and a true partnership with the industry in an independent body.

He said: "Cost-sharing is clearly a difficult issue and would only be contemplated if the industry was more in control of its risk.

"The costs therefore need to be appropriate and the risks need to be manageable."

Mr Jones called upon consumers, policy-makers and the media to recognise the skills and investment in farming by buying British produce as a preference. And he told delegates that the UK was acknowledged as one of the highest achievers in terms of animal health and welfare in the European Union – and that care should be taken to ensure UK livestock farmers were not put at a disadvantage because of disharmony of standards elsewhere.

He added: "EU enlargement has resulted in a more diverse European Union with economic and structural developments, as well as consumer expectations vastly different across the 27 member states. Animal welfare does not carry the same priority weighting across the European membership which is reflected in the reluctance of some countries to comply with animal welfare standards.

"An example of this is the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive. The NFU fears that many Member States will fail to meet the implementation deadline of 2012 and should that happen we’ll be calling for enforcement action."

Mr Jones closed his speech by calling upon all delegates to help to maintain a fair and equitable trading environment to reward the efforts of those in the farming industry.