Prof Jim Reynolds told the Animal Welfare Foundation’s (AWF) annual Discussion Forum UK standards could help pressure the US to change its own.
British industry should not ‘give up’ its high animal welfare standards in future trade negotiations as it could pressure the US to change its own, according to an eminent US professor.
Speaking at the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) annual discussion forum in London last week, Jim Reynolds, a professor of large animal medicine and welfare at Western University of Health Sciences in California, urged the UK industry ‘do not give up what you have’ on animal welfare.
“What you have here is a high-welfare market with a high value to your products. I hope you do not let that slip.”
He added maintaining the UK’s standards in any post-Brexit trade talks could put pressure on the US to change.
“Our system has changed over the years from a supply management system to a commodity-based system in which the profit margins are low so America is looking desperately to export low-value products.
“That is how we make money. Keep your high-welfare, high-value products because that is something we can attain to. Our welfare programmes come from [the UK] to us.”
Also at the event David Main, professor of production animal health and welfare at the Royal Agricultural University said the UK had some of the highest standards in the world.
He highlighted high consumer expectations and applauded the livestock industry for helping establish world-leading farm assurance standards.
However, he pointed out that more could be done by the UK to be world leading when it came to delivering welfare outcomes for farmed animals.
He said ‘animal welfare is GREAT’ needed to be the claim in any trade negotiation, referencing the Government’s export campaign slogan.
He also countered US Ambassador Woody Johnson’s comments earlier this year, when he urged the UK to leave the EU’s ’museum of agriculture’ and dismissed ’misleading scare-stories’ about American agriculture.
“Citizens here in the UK want certain minimum, consistent production standards. And they are willing to pay for higher welfare produce,” he added.
Both speakers agreed vets played a key role as advocates for animals, even if it required speaking ’uncomfortable truths’ on issues such as tail docking or beak trimming.
They also gave a shout-out to the British Veterinary Association’s ‘less and better’ policy position on meat consumption as key to improving livestock animal welfare, highlighting the importance of seeing meat eating as a privilege and hence valued as such.
AWF Chair of Trustees Chris Laurence said: “The welfare of animals on farms is more than just providing for their needs but whether they have a good life, and the manner in which they are managed is critical to that
“The British public recognise that recent issues highlighted during the Brexit debate, such as sentience and the import of food from other countries like the US, have a major effect on the welfare of animals used for food production.
“The debate highlighted those issues, particularly the skill and knowledge of the people who look after farmed animals of all species and the complexity of assessing welfare. How those assessments can be presented to consumers remains an interesting debate.”