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Compassion in World Farming - how better animal welfare makes better human welfare.

February 22, 2015 8:38 PM
By Trevor Carbin

Many constituents have written to me about the campaign by Compassion in World Farming to ask that new parliamentarians promote a humane and sustainable farming system.

In a wide-ranging briefing, CWF say that we need to introduce high standards of farm animal welfare. Here's their manifesto:

"It is time to phase out production that uses cages and crates as they thwart the basic instincts of many animals to roam, forage and explore.

Animals should be kept in outdoor systems or, if they are housed, they should be kept in large barns with ample space, plenty of straw, natural light and effective ventilation. Genetic selection for fast growth or high yields should be avoided if this results in compromised welfare and systems should not be used if they require mutilations.

We need to encourage the adoption of balanced diets with a lower proportion of meat. This would deliver health benefits by reducing the incidence of heart disease, obesity and certain cancers; it would also lower greenhouse gas emissions. Although more crops would be needed for direct human consumption, this would be outweighed by a reduction in demand for feed crops.

Farming provides valuable income to many rural communities. There should be a particular focus on higher welfare production that delivers a better quality of food and a higher income to those farmers at the farmgate, benefitting both the farmer and the wider community through added value.

Much livestock production in the UK is industrial in nature. 60% of EU cereal is used as animal feed. For every 100 calories that we feed to animals in the form of human edible crops, we receive on average just 17-30 calories in the form of meat and milk. We need to avoid excessive use of cereals and put more emphasis on restoring the link between animals and the land.

We need to promote diets that include less but higher welfare meat in order to deliver a farming system that is less intensive, with less reliance on fertilisers and pesticides. This would mean reduced degradation of water, soil and air and lower use of water, land and energy as well as biodiversity gains. It would also enable animals to be kept to higher welfare standards.

Across Europe, around 700 million farm animals (hens, sows, rabbits, ducks and quail) spend some or all of their life confined in cramped, often barren cages. Cages should be consigned to the history books and food production should be developed using extensive, outdoor and cage free systems.

Sustainable farming that nourishes our health, the environment and promotes higher animal welfare must become the rule, not the exception."

For further information on these issues, Compassion in World Farming has produced a Charter which sets out a proposed future direction of travel. It can be found here http://www.ciwf.org.uk/charter and is supported by further details in briefing notes, which can be found here: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/charter-briefing-notes

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Here's my reply:

I've looked through the Charter and briefing material produced by Compassion in World Farming and find it very persuasive, in particular the way it shows how to get a virtuous circle of direct benefits to animal welfare, to human health, to the relief of hunger in poorer countries, and even to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In Wiltshire we do have a few small-scale businesses producing more sustainable food. The problem clearly would be getting the CWF policies implemented on a larger scale at national and European level. I'd certainly be prepared to commit to doing whatever was possible to achieve that, though inevitably, because of the culture change involved, it will be a long process. All the more reason perhaps for getting to grips with it now!