Farm animal welfare codes and the bottom line | Letters

Getting advice about what should happen on farms from processors and supermarkets is not likely to provide regulation beneficial to farm animals

Who said that this government is incapable of joined-up thinking? Your report (Farm animal welfare codes to be scrapped, 26 March) proves otherwise. Surely, the results it expects are a reduction in both the cost and the health status of meat, followed by higher rates of death. Most of the deaths will be in citizens with less efficient auto-immune systems – the old and disabled – so welfare spending on pensions and disability benefits will fall.

Once the public perceives meat as a threat to its health, people will switch to a healthier, largely vegetarian diet, with the small amount of meat eaten being grass-fed animals from high-welfare systems. This in turn will make it easier to achieve reductions in climate-changing gases, as well as lower levels of obesity in the population, and thus lower costs to the NHS.

All splendid stuff – worthy of at least a peerage for Liz Truss, so long as Jeremy Hunt can persuade the chancellor that the increased number of A&E cases will only be temporary. This should be easy, given his insistence on a “long-term economic plan”.
John Davis
Llanfarian, Ceredigion

• It is sensible that current farm animal welfare codes are updated to reflect the modern poultry industry. The current codes were written in the 1990s when the genetic science and technology employed on farms were quite different.

Moreover, it makes sense for the codes to be compiled by the people who are most in touch with the realities of UK poultry farming. While they are very vocal, the animal welfare NGOs have little experience of the welfare demands of today’s chicken. I work daily on farms and I see the picture evolving at a constant pace.

The notion that the UK poultry industry has no concern for farm animal welfare or food safety is outdated. Food safety and animal welfare scandals hit food producers hard, while NGOs rarely have to deal with the practical or commercial implementation of their recommendations. The Freedom Food brand is one example where over-regulation by the RSPCA has stifled an otherwise fantastic opportunity for both farmers and consumers. I am in my 20s and chose a career in the poultry industry because I wanted to have a positive impact on animal welfare, antibiotic resistance and environmental sustainability. I am fully behind the British Poultry Council in its efforts to bring farm animal welfare into the 21st century.
Tom Woolman
Frome, Somerset

• Animal welfare codes always need to be monitored and updated, and getting more guidance from the industry may be a good thing. But it really does matter who is consulted. Getting advice about what should happen on farms from processors and supermarkets is not likely to provide regulation beneficial to farm animals. The people who know what is good for animals and what can be done in a normal day’s work are the stockmen and women who have daily contact with the animals, and the vets who advise them.

There is another danger in getting advice from the wrong people, and that is that processors and supermarkets naturally favour big farms, as collecting from fewer units reduces costs. Regulation from processors and growers will be light on reducing harmful practices and heavy on extra equipment and paperwork, whose costs may be trivial for large units but are catastrophic for small farms. As smaller farms disappear, overall landscape diversity will be reduced, and much wildlife will disappear. More importantly, more uniform management of land will destroy many of the ecological niches necessary for the myriad nutrient recycling micro-organisms– adapted to different soil types, latitude, altitude etc – on which our food production depend.
Huw Jones
Glyn-Coch Farm, Pwll-Trap, Carmarthenshire

• You do not need to print any further articles on the Tory government, deregulation of food laws and consequent food scandals. Just keep reprinting John Vidal’s analysis (Self-regulation equals more food scandals, 26 March). He has been right in the past, and he is right now. Animal welfare (never much good) will become a joke again, and the consumer will be at great risk. The animal food industry cannot be trusted to regulate itself. The very thought is nonsense. Could this be anything to do with profit, I wonder?
Sue Berry
Preston, Lancashire

• The Tories’ latest foray on behalf of big business shows them unwilling yet again to learn anything from recent history. The 2010 Mexican Gulf oil spill, the Libor-rigging scandal, payment protection insurance mis-selling, the 2008 banking crisis and sugar, fat and salt in food are just a few examples where “industry-led guidance” has failed disastrously.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

• The last time a Conservative government took a relaxed line on farm animal welfare it caused the BSE outbreak that led to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and the collapse of the domestic and foreign markets for British beef. Are they incapable  of learning from Thatcher’s mistakes?
Peter Fellows

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