London, 24th July 2023
Today (Monday 24th July 2023) Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF) has launched a landmark report ‘Farm Animal Welfare in the UK: What Does the British Public Want?’ which reveals the significant gap between what the British public demands as citizens and consumers, and the realities of what they receive via UK farming industry methods of production and practices.
The report is authored by Dr Steven McCulloch, veterinary surgeon, expert in animal welfare and Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation Head of Research. It reviews a wealth of polling, research, and data to reveal the vast majority of modern British farming is out of sync with public demand for high animal welfare standards.
Amongst other farming practices, today’s research spotlights the use of cages – which 88% of the British public believe to be cruel. Despite this, approximately 60% of the UK’s breeding sows are kept in farrowing crates and around 30% of laying hens are kept in cages for most of their lives.
While cost to the consumer is often cited as the driving force behind lower welfare, cheaper practices, public polling suggests almost three quarters (72%) of UK citizens are willing to pay more for products sourced from animal-welfare friendly systems.
Differing definitions of what animal welfare entails is put forward as a key factor behind the disconnect between consumer demand and farming practices. While the farming industry uses physical health and productivity as a barometer for welfare, the public take a more extensive view which incorporates access to the outdoors and the ability to perform natural behaviours.
The report can be read here.
Lorraine Platt, Co-Founder of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, commented: “Our landmark report published today reveals a real disconnect between widespread intensive farming practices which inflict suffering on countless sentient animals, and the views of consumers who consistently favour higher welfare practices. Methods of farming like cages and farrowing crates which severely restrict animals’ ability to move and perform natural behaviours, should have no place in 2023. We hope this report will demonstrate to Government the strong consumer support for higher welfare practices, and encourage them to adopt a more compassionate and comprehensive view of animal welfare.”
Dr Steven McCulloch, Head of Research at Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and Senior Lecturer at the University of Winchester, commented: “The British public is right to believe that rearing farmed animals in more extensive, natural, and often outdoor environments, is better for their welfare needs. Such environments permit the performance of highly motivated natural and normal behaviours. Government policy should better align with the views of British citizens and consumers, for the benefit of the billions of sentient farmed animals as well as for democratic reasons.”
Today’s report recommends that policy makers adopt a broader conception of animal welfare beyond the industry’s focus on physical health and productivity to reflect public opinion and that of the British veterinary community. It also recommends the RSPCA Assured food standards scheme as a useful blueprint for Government policy to aim for, given its prohibition of cages and mutilations, and the promotion of more extensive and outdoor conditions.
Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley and Patron of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, commented: “In 2023 it is shocking to me that so many of our farmed animals are still reared indoors, and in cages, unable to perform natural behaviours. It is the role of policymakers to ensure farming practices reflect high standards, and introduce legislation where needed to end the suffering of animals like laying hens and pigs on British farms who spend much of their miserable lives behind bars.”
Dame Andrea Jenkyns, Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood, commented: “Today’s report confirms what we have known for many years – that the UK public cares deeply for animals and demands high farm animal welfare standards for the food they consume. I hope today’s report is a wakeup call for Government to recognise the welfare gap that exists between consumer demand and farming practices.”
Lord Zac Goldsmith, former Environment Minister and Patron of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, commented: “Today’s report by Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation is yet more proof, if it were needed, that we are a nation of animal lovers. But despite clear public support for higher welfare farming, intensive and low welfare practices still dominate across the majority of farms in the UK. It is time to address this welfare gap and support farmers to adopt higher welfare practices which reflect the public’s concern for the animals they consume.”
About Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF)
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation was established in 2016 to raise awareness on the lives of billions of animals reared on intensive farms around the world and how this impact upon animal welfare, the environment and people’s health. We want to highlight the action people can take to help advance farm animal welfare.
Animal welfare is an increasing concern amongst the public, who frequently look to Government to take the lead in both maintaining and improving standards.
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation believes it is highly important that the welfare of farm animals is placed at the forefront of the Governments plan for food and farming along with its focus on productivity, competitiveness, and technology.
Media contact: Sophia Stileman (firstname.lastname@example.org).