A move to help vets and the public better understand farm assurance schemes on the basis of animal health and welfare has been questioned by livestock experts for its ‘idealistic’ approach.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) launched its seven principles last week with points specifically targeted to help reverse the ‘confusing customer experience when food shoppers are navigating both ethical and budgetary considerations as well as the shopping aisles’.
The policy position was developed as part of the BVA’s animal welfare strategy and has been proposed to encourage consumers to consider schemes including lifetime assurance; welfare at slaughter; veterinary involvement; behavioural opportunity; responsible use of antimicrobials and other medicines; animal health and biosecurity; and sustainability and the environment.
But executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association Chris Dodds warned the BVA was presenting solutions of a more idealistic nature than of a practical one.
He said: “I am very clear within my role as an auctioneer that until Red Tractor and or the Government provide us with a traceability database which is truly accurate and timely, it is impossible to move towards lifetime assurance.
“You have to know of an animal’s movements and it has to have been on an assured premise its whole life."
BVA president John Fishwick said the association was lobbying the Government to recognise animal and health welfare as a public good but Mr Dodds said farmers may be wary of some principles as the suggestion animals should be stunned before slaughter ignored other people’s food choices and a short journey to slaughter was not always possible.
He said the industry should instead be ensuring British farmers have the chance of achieving the best price possible.
“What we have to appreciate is all races of humans have equal rights as to how they want to have their food presented to them,” Mr Dodds added.
“As long as the process used is humane and as humane as other systems used, then we should consider and understand the systems they use.”