VEGA News Item

VEGA Responds to DEFRA Consultation on Farmed Animals Regulations - 30/03/2007
Replacement of the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations must ensure that real protection is given to all animals on farms.
Replacement of the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations must ensure that real protection is given to all animals on farms. Our comments on the draft Regulations follow:

Replacement of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000

1. The word "farmed" needs the widest interpretation. Assessments of usage must be rated and scored on the FAWC's measures of observance of the Five Freedoms, and conditions of welfare / wellbeing must be scored in the manner of hygiene regulations. Results of inspections (eg by the SVS) must be available to the public and inform labelling, claims, and advertising for the output, activities, and facilities for which the keeper / owner / custodian of the non-human animals is responsible. Such duties should be "burdensome" only to stock-keepers unable to command acceptable practice and care. The history of bad husbandry and of zoonotic epidemics - and now the threat of avian flu - teaches us the need for swingeing reforms in our treatment of all animals (including humans) involved in activities, in an environment that embraces the origins of the link in the farm-to-fork progression from production to consumption.

2. Care, keeping, ownership, and handling of livestock requires general and specialized training, licensing, and CPD. Modulations in the CAP, entitlement grants, and activities on private land must be considered in the regulations. The future of the anti-Hunting Act must be secured. It must be tidied up and extended to "sporting" pursuits such as shooting and rearing birds mainly for such purposes. Catch-and-return angling must count as an unacceptable form of cruelty. Fishing for food is also relentlessly cruel and its demise, whether as "farmed" or as a relic of hunting for food, should follow as another practice to be ousted soon.

3. Industrialized ("factory") farming must also be damned as bad husbandry and bad practice, undermining worthy endeavour and good standards of employment in farming and food industries. They may be major sources of low-paid work in rural areas and therefore forborne by local communities tolerant of nuisances, cruelties, and breaches of health and safety at work regulations. However, it is important to establish a right of entry for all local authorities wishing to inspect any premises in their areas where animals are bred, confined, used, or killed (or culled). They would thus have the opportunity to invite or entertain independent competence beyond their local means and to investigate allegations of failure by specialised overseers, among whom established animal welfarists, such as the RSPCA, might be included.

4. Integration of the Animal Welfare Acts must include grey areas, such as sanctuaries looking after variously rescued animals but not operating as recognized show or petting farms with the appropriate access and other facilities. The threats of zoonotic diseases impress the need for registration and inspection of such collections and backyard flocks of livestock. The welfare of wildlife and uncommercialized, rescued livestock still requires the land to be kept unlittered and unpolluted. Handling of escaped animals (from farms and slaughterhouses, for instance) must be dealt with in a kindly way and the standards of treatment of an animal on the farm, at auction or in the hands of a dealer or vet, must not depend on the animal's comparable market value. These stipulations would apply to transport: all equines, cattle, sheep, and pigs must have the same level of care as a horse on a journey to or from a race course.

5. The veterinary profession must be required to undertake a 24-hour emergency service and animals must not be reared or kept in premises or grazings where such facilities and appropriate nursing cannot be assured. The trend for trained vets to devolve duties and responsibilities on to lay specialists must be arrested. In obtaining a licence to keep animals, owners must be required to name an appropriately qualified veterinary practice. We hope that merging of the State Veterinary Service, the Dairy Hygiene and Egg Marketing Inspectorates, as well as the Wildlife Licensing and Registration Service into the one Animal Health agency on the 1st April will increase the powers of these agencies and not overwhelm them with too many various responsibilities.

6. New systems of technology and selective breeding must be anticipated in laws preventing pain and suffering, acute and chronic, in animals and freaks contrived for the purposes of increased production of food or other commercial commodities. Artificial insemination has begun a train of exploitation that is now approaching the further artifices of cloning and what is commonly regarded as GM. The animals' interest in these practices must be upheld and provision for bans must be made.

7. DEFRA must accompany efforts at integrating various pieces of legislation while expounding to consumers/customers/citizens the consequences to them of overdue reforms to establish increasing standards of care of the environment and of the non-human denizens of our countryside and the corollaries in choices of imported foods and goods. Raising the school leaving age by 2 years offers opportunities in education to rehearse these topics and their application in the quality of life. They would also serve the worthy standards the FSA is trying to assert, especially in appraisals of labelling, claims, and advertising. Recent utterances by authorities such as Ben Bradshaw, MP, a current DEFRA Minister, indicate progress of reform in animal welfare nicely linked with consumer power and salutary dietary change: he advocates reductions in consumption of meat and milk.

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