Pigs reared under the RSPCA’s animal welfare scheme will be subject to new on-farm welfare assessments under a change to scheme rules coming in later this month.
From late April members of RSPCA Assured, formerly known as Freedom Food, will have on-farm welfare outcome assessments of their pigs carried out by Freedom Food assessors, as well as by RSPCA farm livestock officers during monitoring visits.
The RSPCA is hoping to further improve the lives of millions of pigs in the UK by including welfare outcome assessments as part of its welfare standards.
The project aims to improve the welfare of farm animals by developing on-farm assessments that that specifically focus on measuring the key welfare issues for a species.
These assessments have also been developed for hens and dairy cattle and are under development for broilers, beef cattle and sheep.
Kate Parkes, RSPCA pig welfare specialist, said the assessments had been designed to be simple.
They look at the effect that housing, space, feed, veterinary care and other input and management practices have on the welfare of farm animals.
Red Tractor finishing pig scheme members already have welfare outcome assessments carried out on their units under the AHDB Real Welfare scheme which looks at five core measures.
Pigs reared to RSPCA standards will also be scored on a further 11 measures including manure on the body, leg swellings and skin conditions, such as sunburn and mange) The assessments will be carried out on dry sows as well as finishing pigs.
AssureWel’s welfare outcome assessments are scientifically validated measures of welfare and data can be collected across farms and compared so best practice can be identified and shared.
Ms Parkes said: "We hope these quick and easy assessments will really help us further improve the lives of millions of pigs.
“Not only can these assessments give us an accurate picture of the level of welfare being achieved within the RSPCA Assured scheme, but they can also be used by farmers, vets and producer groups as a tool to help monitor the welfare of their herds, spot the early signs of problems, and see whether any changes they have had an impact on welfare."