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Animal Welfare - Recent Reports and Comments

Animal Welfare vol 24 issue 1 Volume 24
Issue 3
August 2015


Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) Opinion on CCTV in slaughterhouses

The UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC), an expert committee of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has published its Opinion on CCTV in Slaughterhouses in response to increasing pressure from lobby groups and others for the introduction of mandatory CCTV use in slaughterhouses.

The report acknowledges that a significant proportion of slaughterhouses already use CCTV (covering 90–98% of animals slaughtered in 2013) and that its use has grown significantly in recent years, driven by support for the technology from NGOs, farm assurance schemes and retailers. Petitions and Early Day Motions calling for mandatory installation of CCTV in slaughterhouses have been put to Government in recent years but none have led to a formal debate or legislation.

The Opinion covers a range of issues including the drivers for CCTV use, the benefits and limitations of CCTV use, the challenges for business operators installing and using CCTV, the legal and ethical issues of observing workers remotely and the long-term impact of CCTV use. The Opinion was based on a written consultation, information from relevant industry and legislative bodies and the published scientific literature.

FAWC believes that CCTV offers a range of benefits for both observation and recording of slaughterhouse operations. The benefits include the ability to store footage for lengthy periods of time, the potential for footage to be used as a training tool, the ability to monitor inaccessible places (eg inside gas-stunning systems) and the fact that CCTV is unobtrusive to both operations and the animals. Significantly, it also increases public trust in slaughterhouse procedures.

FAWC acknowledges that there are limitations to the use of CCTV and emphasise that the technology cannot replace direct oversight of personnel especially during, for example, training. Major limitations include image quality, the breadth of vision (ie the context), the security of recorded footage and the potential for inconsistencies in the analysis of footage. It is also as yet unproven whether CCTV results in any improvement in welfare compliance.

Emphasising that CCTV should only be used “as an adjunct and accompaniment to physical observation and supervisory presences” and that the installation of CCTV should not be used as a reason for any reduction in physical observation, FAWC concludes that CCTV should be installed in all areas of the slaughterhouse where live animals are kept and where animals are stunned and killed.

Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) Opinion on CCTV in Slaughterhouses (February 2015). A4, 22 pages. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fawc-opinion-on-cctv-in-slaughterhouses.

NR Williams,


AWIN welfare assessment protocols: donkeys, goats, horses, sheep and turkeys

The culmination of a four-year long project co-funded by the European Commission, these five assessment protocols have been produced by a network of animal welfare scientists, veterinarians and other stakeholders working across Europe and elsewhere, for the Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) project.

Building on previous work by the Welfare Quality® project (http://www.welfarequalitynetwork.net), AWIN sought to develop on-farm protocols for assessing the welfare of farmed animals not covered in this previous project, with a particular focus on pain assessment and recognition. This was challenging because the species that the AWIN project addressed: donkeys, goats, horses, sheep and turkeys are less well researched than those of the Welfare Quality® (pigs, poultry, dairy and beef cattle). In addition, the conditions in which the species are kept are more heterogeneous.

Much of the methodology, concepts and use of language in these protocols will be familiar to those who have read those produced by Welfare Quality®. Each AWIN protocol is broken down into (at least) five sections. The material contained within the Introduction, Aims and Preliminary information is, in the main, similar for each protocol and deals with the preliminary information that is relevant for applying the protocol. The real core of each protocol are the 4th and 5th sections. In the 4th section, the assessment protocol for the species in question is outlined, both for an initial quick screen (level 1 assessment) and a second more in-depth and robust assessment. In the 5th, the procedure by which an outcome for the assessed farm is generated is detailed, including the decision process to determine whether it is necessary to conduct a more in-depth (level 2) welfare assessment. The protocols also contain Appendices in which the recording sheets to collect data are given.

The protocols are animal-based and seek to assess the welfare of the relevant species predominantly through observation of groups of individuals — although there are elements of handling in most of the protocols.

The assessment protocols are quite specific, with age and/or production goal influencing their validity. For example, the donkey protocol is suitable only for those over a year old, the horse for horses over five years old that have been used for different activities, and the sheep for adult females over a year old kept for milk and/or meat.

Each of the protocols gives advice on how to prepare to carry out the assessment and details how the protocol should be carried out, including how many animals should be assessed (dependent upon numbers kept on the farm), which assessments should be carried out outside or within an enclosure and the order that different indicators of welfare should be assessed. Even though many of the same indicators are used to collect information on individual and group welfare for most of the species, the order in which they appear in the assessment protocol may differ.

Each of the indicators used to assess welfare are placed within the framework of four welfare principles and 12 welfare criteria developed in the Welfare Quality® project. There are 23 individual indicators listed for sheep, which include: body condition (Welfare principle: Good feeding; Welfare criteria: Appropriate nutrition) fleece cleanliness (Good housing; Comfort around resting), body and head lesions (Good health; Absence of injuries), familiar human approach test (Appropriate behaviour; Good human-animal relationship), etc. Of these, only 15 are used in an initial assessment of welfare, with the extra indicators being used only if it becomes clear that a second in-depth assessment is required because of concerns highlighted in the first.

For each indicator that is to be used in the assessment, a description of it, how it is to be used to assess welfare and how it is to be scored are given, with illustrations as appropriate.

The 5th stage, ‘Outcome of welfare assessment’ requires the data collected during the initial assessment to be entered into an online data set, via a downloadable app. This then allows a comparison to be made against a reference population and an objective visual and descriptive output to be generated for each indicator, by which the farmer can see how they compare against others. From this, and based upon performance against the reference population, it may be necessary to conduct a more in-depth assessment. For goats, a farm that had animals showing indicators worse that the worst 5% of farms in the reference population for the indicators abscesses, improper disbudding, hair coat condition and/or severe lameness would trigger a level 2 assessment.

Clearly, the length of time it takes to carry out each assessment is an issue and important in encouraging their use. The following are listed as expected times for an initial first-level assessment: goats — 90 minutes for each pen assessed; sheep — 40 minutes for each assessed sub-group; horse and donkeys — 5 minutes per individual. Level 2 assessments are more time-consuming because they involve more indicators and more animals.

The protocol that differs most from the others is the turkey protocol, which assesses the welfare of male and female turkeys reared intensively 1 or 2 weeks before slaughter. It uses an assessment methodology based on transects through the houses in which the turkeys are kept and includes indicators that might be considered to be more subjective than in the other protocols. In addition, unlike the 2-level assessment process of the other protocols, the turkey protocol does not have a more intensive welfare assessment protocol to be followed if a concern is highlighted by the initial data gathering exercise. Rather, through use of a data recording app that has been developed — the i-WatchTurkey app — a rapid comparison against historical data is made and the app flags up a warning message if the mean incidence of an indicator is significantly above that of the historical mean.

It is worth noting for those who are looking to use these protocols, that each has at its start a disclaimer, prominent in which is the need for training in their use: ‘No individual or organisation can be considered capable of applying this method in a robust, repeatable and valid way without appropriate training. Untrained assessors should not use this protocol because the data obtained will not be valid.’ In the first instance this training should be sought from the teams that compiled each protocol.

All these protocols are works in progress and it is the intention of AWIN to revise and modify these in light of their use and as more knowledge is gained. More details of the other elements and outcomes of the AWIN project can be found on their website: http://www.animal-welfare-indicators.net/site.

AWIN Welfare Assessment Protocol for Donkeys (March 2015). A4, 69 pages. DOI: 10.13130/AWIN_DONKEYS_2015. Published by AWIN. Available for download from the Animal Welfare Indicators website: http://www.animal-welfare-indicators.net/site/.

AWIN Welfare Assessment Protocol for Goats (March 2015). A4, 70 pages. DOI: 10.13130/AWIN_GOATS_2015. Published by AWIN. Available for download from the Animal Welfare Indicators website: http://www.animal-welfare-indicators.net/site/.

AWIN Welfare Assessment Protocol for Horses (March 2015). A4, 80 pages. DOI: 10.13130/AWIN_HORSES_2015. Published by AWIN. Available for download from the Animal Welfare Indicators website: http://www.animal-welfare-indicators.net/site/.

AWIN Welfare Assessment Protocol for Sheep (March 2015). A4, 72 pages. DOI: 10.13130/AWIN_SHEEP_2015. Published by AWIN. Available for download from the Animal Welfare Indicators website: http://www.animal-welfare-indicators.net/site/.

AWIN Welfare Assessment Protocol for Turkeys (March 2015). A4, 45 pages. DOI: 10.13130/AWIN_TURKEYS_2015. Published by AWIN. Available for download from the Animal Welfare Indicators website: http://www.animal-welfare-indicators.net/site/.

 SM Wickens,


Report of the UK Advisory Council on the welfare issues of dog breeding: summary of progress since The Bateson Report of 2010

Published at the end of December 2014, this Report gives a final review and summary of all the UK Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding, and others, have achieved over the four years of its existence. Established in 2010, following a recommendation by the Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding chaired by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson (see R&C, Animal Welfare [19:2] 2010), the key role of this Council was envisaged by Bateson to be ‘....to develop evidence-based breeding strategies that address the issues of poor conformation, inherited disease and inbreeding as appropriate to the specific breed and to provide advice on the priorities for research and development in these areas.’

Rather than focusing on progress against this individual recommendation, this Report instead opts for a broader view and is structured so that general progress made, and actions taken, are measured against each of the fourteen Bateson recommendations. Further detail is contained within seven Appendices, which collect some of the other various reports on progress, guidance and recommendations previously issued by the Council. Recommendations for future action are also given.

In her foreword, chairman Professor Sheila Crispin indicates that whilst the Council feel that progress has been made against some of the Bateson recommendations, highlighting, amongst others, the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs, the production of a Puppy Contract for those selling and buying dogs and the modification of (some) Kennel Club breed standards, there are areas that still need addressing. This is perhaps not unexpected given that the Council has no statutory powers and is working in an area with many diverse stakeholders who have different interests, motivations and priorities.

One of the areas where further work is needed relates to Recommendation 4 of the Bateson Report, which called for upgrading of the existing UK Kennel Club (KC) accredited breeder scheme, and if this could not be agreed, the introduction of a new independent standard for breeding dogs. Accordingly, the Council produced their own standard and then began discussions with the Kennel Club as to how their breeder scheme could be amended to match this. Complete agreement between the two has still to be reached, although the Kennel Club have revised elements of their scheme and now achieved UKAS accreditation. The Report indicates that the points of disagreement that remain between the two schemes/standards are only small and not necessarily insuperable. In the recommendations for further action, the Council sees the next challenge as encouraging the take up of a single standard by breeders of both purebred and crossbred dogs alike.

Progress has been least in those of the Bateson recommendations that relate to statutory regulation (Recommendations 6, 8 and 10). Whilst the Council produced and submitted advice to Government on the regulation of the breeding, supply, sale and advertising for sale of dogs and offered to produce a Code of Practice based upon its ‘Standard for Breeding Dogs’ (both detailed in the Appendices), no action on either has been taken by Defra, the concerned UK Government ministry, despite their initial expressions of interest. In addition, amendments tabled by this ministry to a Deregulation Bill (aimed at streamlining and simplifying existing legislation) proposed removing requirements for record-keeping by dog breeders; requirements that the Council regard as essential. This has meant that discrepancies and omissions now exist between different parts of UK legislation, between that that deals specifically with the breeding of dogs and licensing of breeding establishments and more recently introduced regional Animal Welfare Acts.

As its last act, the Council lists eight areas it sees as priorities for future actions. In the first of these it notes that ‘considerable confusion’ remains about the ‘best means of delivering informed independent advice in relation to dog health and welfare’. The Council’s recommendation therefore is a formal review of the situation, eg through reconstituting the Dog Welfare Review Board or a similar grouping of key stakeholders. It sees that the key to success in this is reciprocal stakeholder collaboration.

Another is the establishment of a Trust Fund by the Council to support research connected with the collection of canine prevalence data, particularly in relation to those conditions with the greatest impact on quality of life. The Fund will be administered by trustees drawn from members of the Council — details of whom can be found on their website: http://www.dogadvisorycouncil.com.

A final action point is that the Working Group addressing the issues of selection for extremes of conformation should continue, and this it will — with funding provided by the RSPCA and under the chair of Advisory Council member, Dr David Sargan.

Summary of Progress since the Bateson Report of 2010 (December 2014). A4, 100 pages. Report Of The Advisory Council On The Welfare Issues Of Dog Breeding. Available at: http://cavaliercampaign.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Advisory-Council-Final-Report.pdf.

SM Wickens,


The welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices: a review of the legislation across EU countries

The EU Dog and Cat Alliance (a group of 45 organisations with an interest in cat and dog welfare from 14 of the 28 European Union member states) has published a Report examining provisions for the protection and promotion of dog and cat welfare across the European Union and proposing EU-wide measures to improve welfare for these companion animal species.

Whilst overarching EU legislation governs the welfare of animals used in agriculture and for scientific research and testing, protections for companion species are less comprehensive at the EU level, meaning that individual Member States shoulder the bulk of the responsibility for legislating for dog and cat welfare.

The Report highlights the inevitable disparities which arise when individual countries control welfare legislation. Significant differences in regulations covering a range of issues which affect dog and cat welfare are highlighted, for instance, whilst some countries tightly control registration, breeding or surgical mutilation of cats and dogs, others impose almost no controls on these practices.

The Report makes the case for EU-wide regulation of cat and dog welfare to eliminate such disparities. Given that EU legislation has played a significant role in harmonising the laws and regulations governing the treatment of animals in other fields, an attempt to control the treatment of cats and dogs seems timely. There are pitfalls in EU-wide legislation however, including the potential for ‘regression to the mean’ whereby the standards of those countries which are already higher are eroded, or ‘gold-plating’ whereby some countries impose standards higher than the harmonised EU standards, which can be perceived as restraint of trade between Member States. In general, the proposals from the Alliance propose standards that are as high as or higher than those currently in force in any Member State. The proposals include:

  • Compulsory permanent identification and registration of dogs and cats on an appropriate database, which is linked to an EU database;
  • Compulsory licensing of dog and cat breeders and harmonised EU standards for dog and cat breeders, covering the conditions in which dogs and cats are kept, training of breeders, socialisation of puppies and kittens and the prevention of selective breeding of dogs and cats with genetic problems as a minimum;
  • A ban on the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops, at markets, shows and exhibitions as well as in the street. Dogs and cats should only be sold from their breeder’s premises, allowing new owners to see the conditions in which their pet has been raised;
  • Appropriate controls on the internet trade of dogs and cats;
  • Specific requirements for the transport of cats and dogs in the context of an economic activity to protect their welfare; and
  • A full ban on all surgical mutilations other than for health reasons.

The Welfare of Dogs and Cats Involved in Commercial Practices: a Review of the Legislation across EU Countries (March 2015). A4, 116 pages. EU Dog and Cat Alliance. Available for download from: http://www.dogandcatwelfare.eu/media/filer_public/0b/d2/0bd22b71-f297-4b93-b796-6ff5b245adc8/eudogandcat_web.pdf.

H Golledge,


Food Standards Agency board meeting

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published a Report by its Chief Operating Officer which discusses the results of a recent series of unannounced inspections of abattoirs across Great Britain — in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has sole responsibility for animal welfare policy and enforcement. In it, the FSA notes the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) Opinion on CCTV in slaughterhouses and reiterates its commitment to promoting a zero tolerance approach to breaches of animal welfare. This Report also contains a review of consumer attitudes to animal welfare, which shows welfare of farmed animals as the food-related issue of greatest concern to UK consumers.

Following a number of exposés which showed evidence of apparent deliberate cruelty to animals in two British slaughterhouses, the FSA carried out a series of unannounced inspections of GB slaughterhouses. A total of 306 inspections across England, Scotland and Wales were completed by FSA staff during February and March this year. The results of the survey showed that 267 of the premises visited (87%) were operating to satisfactory animal welfare standards, but 38 abattoirs (12%) were in need of improvements in this area. Of these, 33 were in England (11%), two in Scotland and three in Wales. Of the 33 in England, one required urgent improvement.

There are differences in implementation of EU requirements for Animal Welfare Officers (AWOs) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) in England, compared to Scotland and Wales, which may be linked to a differing enforcement landscape. Certain businesses in Wales are still in the process of transitioning on SOP requirements. The Report says that the majority of areas of non-compliance have already been identified by the plants’ Official Veterinarians (OVs) and are being addressed. The main problem areas include: the use of SOPs; documentation; monitoring; and the appointment of AWOs. However, no details are given as to the nature of the non-compliances.

The effectiveness of the FSA teams operating in slaughterhouses was also assessed during this round of inspections and was found to be good in 294 (96%) of the premises visited. Twelve of the FSA teams were found wanting in certain aspects of their work; namely record-keeping and clarity in respect of slaughter licences and the need for effective, documented physical checks during the slaughter process.

The FSA supports use of CCTV by business operators as part of their systems for monitoring and protecting animal welfare. CCTV uptake has increased since the 2013 animal welfare survey — the FSA estimates that 94% of cattle, 96% of pigs, 90% of sheep and 99% of poultry throughput now comes from premises where CCTV is used as part of the animal welfare monitoring regime. There is, however, an inconsistency in usage, retention periods vary, and not all businesses are currently willing to share footage with officials. The FSA Report accepts that CCTV is neither a failsafe nor a guarantee of compliance (a view shared by FAWC), but supports its use by business operators as part of their system for monitoring and protecting animal welfare. CCTV does not replace direct oversight by management, or checks by officials, but it can materially improve their effectiveness.

In summary, this Report documents that a system of unannounced visits has been implemented; and that these exposed few, and mainly minor, breaches of the animal welfare legislation — most of them in connection with records and paperwork. Future reports might benefit from more detail regarding the number and type of physical checks on the slaughter operation, including details of the non-compliances raised.

As a result of the room for improvement highlighted by this series of unannounced visits, the FSA states that it intends to continue to increase its promotion of a zero-tolerance approach to animal welfare breaches, by encouraging close liaison between Food Business Operators (FBOs) and FSA frontline staff.

Update on Animal Welfare: Food Standards Agency (June 2015). A4, 42 pages. Report available at: https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/fsa150605.pdf.

C Mason,


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