Guidance from Defra for Government bodies which are looking to buy food contains ‘unsatisfactory’ provisions for animal welfare, according to a new report.
The paper, published by the Food Research Collaboration and written by Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser at Compassion in World Farming, called upon Ministers to introduce a legal requirement for public procurement to ‘promote the highest standards of welfare’.
Mr Stevenson suggested the best vehicle for such a requirement would be the Agriculture Bill, which is expected to be published before the end of July.
He said: “Defra’s Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering and the Balanced Scorecard for public food procurement include animal welfare considerations.
“However, these documents only require meat, milk and eggs to have been produced to legislative minimum standards. This is unsatisfactory.
“Public sector bodies should use their buying power to augment the market for food produced to high nutritional, environmental and animal welfare standards. Public bodies’ commitment to quality will help change our attitude to food.”
The report also suggested Government departments should buy less meat in order to keep costs down.
It pointed to practices in some American hospitals which only use meat produced sustainably and to higher animal welfare standards, but reduce the amount used in their meals.
“The savings made by using less meat can cover the cost of buying higher quality meat”, the paper said.
“This can produce two ‘wins’: support for sustainable, high-welfare farming and healthier diets for patients.”
A Defra spokesman said: “The Government will continue to promote and enhance animal welfare, both now and after we have left the EU.
“British food already enjoys a reputation for quality which has been built on high animal welfare standards, strong environmental protections and the dedication of farmers and growers to meeting ever more demanding consumer expectations.
“All central Government departments and their agencies are required to use the balanced scorecard and Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering, which ensure high animal welfare standards.”