Every animal has the capacity to experience physical and mental suffering and to experience pleasure and contentment. As a nation we are collectively responsible for determining what sort of lives these animals will lead. As such, farm animal welfare is high on the agenda of many members of the general public, food businesses, farmers, farm assurance schemes and, of course, animal welfare organisations.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme this year (2014) the Food Ethics Council and Heather Pickett were asked to undertake independent research into past and potential future factors driving changes in farm animal welfare in the UK.
We were tasked with finding out how farm animal welfare in the UK has changed over the past 20 years; how farm assurance schemes and labels have evolved; what role they’ve played in driving up standards and practices; what role they might play in the future in taking opportunities and addressing challenges; and what a vision of farm animal welfare might look like in 20 years from now.
We conducted a literature review, and interviewed 21 experts with a wide range of perspectives on farm animal welfare from retail, government, academia and NGOs.