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Animal Welfare - Recent Reports and Comments

Animal Welfare vol 24 issue 1 Volume 27 
Issue 2
May 2018

Updated Code of Practice for the Welfare of Meat Chickens and Meat Breeding Chickens in England

Following a period of consultation in 2017, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recently published an updated Code of Practice for the Welfare of Meat Chickens and Meat Breeding Chickens in England. The Code came into force in March 2018.

Much of the content in the 2018 Code is similar to that found in previous guidance documents: the 2002 Code of Practice for the Welfare of Meat Chickens and Meat Breeding Chickens, and the 2011 Interim Guidance for Keepers of Conventionally Reared Meat Chickens in Relation to the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations, as amended by the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (amendment) Regulations 2010. The 2018 Code combines information from both of these documents and is more user-friendly in style. It has also been updated where necessary, taking into account new legislation and advances in scientific and veterinary knowledge.

The Code covers all husbandry systems across all sectors of the meat chicken production industry (including parent and grandparent breeding birds) and it is intended that the Code “help all those who care for meat chickens and meat breeding chickens to practise good standards of stockmanship to safeguard chicken welfare”. Both the Five Freedoms and the Three Essentials of Stockmanship are provided at the beginning of the document and it is suggested that they “form the guiding principles for the assessment of welfare within any system”.

The main body of the document is divided into three sections:

1) Recommendations applying to all husbandry systems;

2) Additional recommendations for free-range systems; and

3) Additional recommendations for meat breeding and grandparent chicken.

Throughout the document, relevant legislation (such as paragraphs from the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the Welfare of Farmed Animals [England] Regulations 2007, and the Mutilations [Permitted Procedures] [England] Regulations 2007) are provided alongside the related section.

Compared to the previous guidance, some sections have been extended, eg the section on leg health discusses bird health and welfare more extensively and also includes a paragraph requiring that particular attention is given to lame birds when assessing birds before transportation: “Prior to crating and loading, an assessment of birds’ fitness to travel must be undertaken. Careful consideration should be given by the keeper as to whether any lame birds are legally fit to travel for the proposed journey. If they are not, they should be humanely killed on farm”.

There are some new sections, including one on environmental enrichment, which states that: “Environmental enrichment can improve bird health and welfare by reducing disturbances, aggression, injurious pecking, fear responses and stress and improving leg health by increasing the level of physical activity”.

A number of Annexes provide further, useful information (eg applicable legislation) and worked examples (eg cumulative daily mortality rate).

Code of Practice for the Welfare of Meat Chickens and Meat Breeding Chickens (2018). A4, 47 pages. Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. Further information is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-recommendations-for-the-welfare-of-livestock-meat-chickens-and-breeding-chickens.

E Carter,

Updated Codes of Welfare published for dogs, cats and equids in England

There are approximately 8.5 million dogs, 8 million cats and 1 million horses in the United Kingdom. According to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (Section 9), any person responsible for an animal is required to take all reasonable steps to meet the needs of that animal. Under the Act, the needs of an animal are based on the ‘Five Freedoms’ and are considered to be:

1) Its need for a suitable environment;

2) its need for a suitable diet;

3) its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns;

4) any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals; and

5) its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

To help inform dog, cat and equine owners and keepers about their responsibility to meet the welfare needs of an animal in their care, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently revised and updated the Codes of Practice for these three species (in association with the Canine and Feline Sector Council [dogs and cats], and the Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare and the British Horse Industry Confederation [horses, ponies, donkeys and their hybrids]). The Code came into force on 6 April 2018.

All three Codes give information as to why each of the five ‘needs’ is important, and what people should do to meet each of these needs for an animal in their care. However, all the Codes clearly state that each animal and situation is different and it is the responsibility of the owner or keeper to find out the individual needs of their particular cat, dog or horse, and how best to meet them.

Since the previous Codes were published in 2009 there have been some advances in our understanding of animal behaviour, socialisation, and training, and the amended Codes have been updated accordingly. The Codes also take into account changes in legislation, such as the requirement for all dogs to be microchipped (Microchipping of Dogs [England] Regulations 2015).

The updated Codes are generally user-friendly with a clear layout, more pictures and simple charts. Useful extra information is provided in the Annexes of each Code, which direct the reader to other, more comprehensive, guidance and advice.

Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats (2017). A4, 12 pages. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Canine and Feline Sector Group. Available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-the-welfare-of-cats.

Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs (2017). A4, 12 pages. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Canine and Feline Sector Group. Available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-the-welfare-of-dogs.

Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids (2017). A4, 37 pages. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare and the British Horse Industry Confederation. Available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-the-welfare-of-horses-ponies-donkeys-and-their-hybrids.

E Carter,

Updated zoo standards for care of elephants in England

In 2008, a Report found that there were a number of welfare concerns for zoo-housed elephants in the United Kingdom (UK) (Harris et al 2008). Many elephants had foot or joint problems (over half the national herd was either mildly or severely lame), 75% of the herd was classed as ‘overweight’ or ‘very overweight’, and many elephants exhibited abnormal behaviour (stereotypies). Subsequent to this Report, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) formed the Elephant Welfare Group and were tasked by the UK Government with improving the welfare of captive elephants over the next ten years.

To ensure that the welfare of elephants could be monitored in an objective way, a further project was supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and undertaken by the University of Nottingham (Defra 2015). The main objective of the project was to create a reliable and evidence-based behavioural welfare assessment tool for elephants. Researchers also reviewed current elephant provisions in the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice.

Under UK law, zoos (defined as an establishment which houses wild animals and allows the public access to view the animals seven or more days in a twelve-month period [not including pet shops or circuses]) must be managed in accordance with the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice, which are issued under Section 9 of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. Zoo Inspectors are also expected to refer to the standards when carrying out zoo inspections.

The Standards encompass 12 areas of care and management, including: provision of a suitable environment for animals (based on the Five Freedoms); transportation and movement of live animals; conservation and education measures; public safety in the zoo; stock records; staff and training; public facilities; and display of zoo licence. There are also 12 appendices that give greater detail on areas, such as veterinary facilities (Appendix 5), training of animals (Appendix 7), and specialist exhibits (Appendix 8).

Appendix 8.8 of the standards covers elephants and, taking into account recommendations from the recent report by the University of Nottingham (Defra 2015), Defra has recently updated the standards to include much greater detail on elephant care. The new sections within Appendix 8.8 emphasise the complex needs of elephants and introduce a requirement for zoos housing them to develop both a Long Term Management Plan (LTMP) for their elephant collection as a whole (spanning at least 30 years), and an Individual Welfare Plan (IWP) for each elephant. These plans must include certain features, such as: herd compatibility, long-term enclosure development planning, elephant training and an exit strategy should the collection choose to no longer hold elephants.

The importance of social grouping is given greater weight in the updated standards and section 8.8.8 on social grouping states that: “Appropriate social grouping is key to successful elephant management and must be pre-eminent in all aspects of care”.

Other changes to Appendix 8.8 include an increase in the recommended indoor enclosure size (from 200 m2 to at least 300 m2 for indoor cow/herd facilities for four [or fewer] animals); an increase in outdoor enclosure size (from 2,000 m2 to at least 3,000 m2) and a recommendation that at least one metre of sand is provided in indoor areas to help prevent foot and joint problems, as well as allowing other natural behaviours, such as digging).

There is also greater detail given within sections on: behavioural management; healthcare; and elephant training. For example, it is stipulated that “Each institution must have an elephant training programme (documented in the LMP) and individual tailored goals for each animal (documented in the IWP).” Particular emphasis is placed on appropriate use of the ankus (a tool with a hook on the end that is used to cue elephants when training) and all staff using an ankus are required to undergo continued professional development.

Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice: Appendix 8 – Specialist Exhibits, Elephants (2017). A4, 11 pages. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/secretary-of-state-s-standards-of-modern-zoo-practice


Harris M, Sherwin CM and Harris S 2008 The welfare, housing and husbandry of elephants in UK zoos. Report to Defra. http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=WC05007_7719_FRP.pdf

Defra 2015 Developing behavioural indicators, as part of a wider set of indicators, to assess the welfare of elephants in UK zoos. Defra Project WC1081, Final report prepared for the Zoos policy team, Defra. Prepared by University of Nottingham. http://sciencesearch.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=12816_ElephantwelfarereportWC1081.pdf 

E Carter,

European Commission reports on implementation of EU Directive 2010/63/EU on the use of animals in research

The European Directive 2010/63/EU adopted in 2010 updated and replaced the previous legislation that had been in place since 1986. This Report, and accompanying staff working document, meet the requirement of Article 58 of the 2010 Directive for a review of the Directive by 10th November 2017.

The aim of the review was to assess how well the Directive’s objectives had been achieved, whether it is fit for purpose or whether it needs updating given the latest scientific and ethical developments. However, whilst the Directive came into effect on 1 January 2013, it took until 2015 before the last national standards were developed. Moreover, the husbandry standards only came into force in January 2017. This Report can, therefore, be seen as only a very preliminary assessment. The review was largely carried out through a consultation with stakeholders, and via a public consultation, although several reports and opinions were also taken into account.

The Report indicates that much of the implementation seems to have gone well and that the Directive is making progress in achieving its aims of advancing the 3Rs in member states by creating a level playing field; and improving transparency to the public. Animal welfare bodies were also felt to be a useful contribution to improving animal care and husbandry. However, in some areas, the Commission felt it was too soon to evaluate the Directive. For example, national committees, a requirement of the legislation, are still feeling their way in many countries. Inspection data will also not be available from Member States before late 2018 and it is not yet clear to what extent publication of non-technical project summaries and revised annual statistical data will contribute towards improved transparency. It is also considered too soon to assess the impact of the Directive on the promotion and uptake of non-animal alternatives in research.

The Report concludes that the current deadline of November 22 after which only non-human primates that are the offspring of animals which have been bred in captivity (F2/F2+), or that are sourced from self-sustaining colonies will be allowed to be used in research is still appropriate (this refers mainly to the cynomolgus or long-tailed macaque: marmosets have been required to be F2/F2+ since January 2013).

Issues where further work is needed, include harmonisation of guidance on project applications and measures to streamline assessment and authorisation. Information is also needed on housing and care of cephalopods and methods for their euthanasia. With respect to the Directive’s scope, there were no major issues, but it was felt that, for better harmonisation, guidance is needed on minimum threshold of severity which triggers the Act for a procedure.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions in Accordance with Article 58 of Directive 2010/63/EU on the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes (SWD[2017] 353 final) (November 2017). A4, 10 pages. Available from http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2017/EN/COM-2017-631-F1-EN-MAIN-PART-1.PDF.

Commission Staff Working Document Accompanying the Report From the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions (SWD[2017] 353) 10.11.2017 Final (November 2017). Available from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1510252227435&uri=SWD:2017:353:FIN.

R Hubrecht,

First EU reference centre for animal welfare

Wageningen Livestock Research (The Netherlands), the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (Germany) and the Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University (Denmark) have together been selected as the first European Union (EU) Reference Centre for Animal Welfare.

The centre will provide scientific and technical expertise to support the activities of the Commission and EU Member States and pig welfare will be the focus of this first centre.

The centre has been established in accordance with Articles 95 and 96 of the Official Controls Regulation, which also lays out further information on how EU Reference Centres are selected and what their responsibilities and tasks will be. The designation of the first Reference Centre for Animal Welfare will be reviewed in five years time.

EU Reference Centre for Animal Welfare (5 March 2018). European Commission. Further information is available online at: https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/welfare/eu-ref-centre_en.

Official Controls Regulation (15 March 2017). Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and Council of the European Union of 15 March 2017, on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed laws, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products. Further information available online at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2017/625/oj

E Carter,

Animal welfare and competitiveness of EU livestock producers

The European Commission (EC) is the executive body of the European Union (EU) that represents and upholds the interests of the EU as a whole. Part of the role of the EC is to promote animal welfare and earlier this year the Commission published a Report on the impact of animal welfare international activities on the competitiveness of European livestock producers in a globalised world.

The Report is largely based on a study published in 2017: ‘Study on the Impact of Animal Welfare International Activities’, which was carried out to provide data for the EC and to analyse the impact of EU international activities on the competitiveness of EU livestock producers and operators. The study covers the time-period 2004 to 2015.

The Report opens by stating that “Promoting animal welfare and fair competition globally remains one of the Commission’s priorities on animal welfare”. It then goes on to describe the Commission’s international activities, including multilateral activities (such as supporting the development and adoption of OIE standards) and bilateral activities (such as raising awareness of animal welfare and sharing technical knowledge). The Report also describes how animal welfare research, supported by the Commission, has contributed to providing a scientific basis for the development of international animal welfare standards and guidelines.

When considering how animal welfare international activities have affected competitiveness for EU and non-EU producers, four factors were assessed: productivity and cost competitiveness; market access; trade distortions; and, capacity to innovate.

The Commission drew fourteen conclusions in all. The Commission considers itself to have: “played a prominent and decisive role in raising global awareness on animal welfare and significant results have been achieved” (Conclusion 3). Crucially, the Commission conclude that: “Animal welfare standards have a limited impact overall on the competitiveness of EU producers on world markets” (Conclusion 12), and that: “Overall costs of compliance with animal welfare standards remain very low when compared to other production costs that affect global competitiveness and influence world trade patterns”.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the Impact of Animal Welfare International Activities on the Competitiveness of European Livestock Producers in a Globalised World (26 January 2018). A4, 9 pages. European Commission, Brussels COM (2018) 42 Final. Available online at: https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/animals/docs/aw_international_publication-report_en.pdf.

Study on the Impact of Animal Welfare International Activities (2017). A4, 217 pages. Report submitted to the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) by a grouping of consulting firms and research institutions led by Economisti Associati Srl ad including Areté Consulting. http://doi.org/10.2875/745687.

E Carter,

The welfare of wild animals in circuses

The number of wild animals in travelling circuses is small — at the end of the 2017 touring season there were only two travelling circuses and the licenses covered 19 animals (six reindeer, four zebra, three camels, three racoons, a fox, a macaw, and a zebu). However, for a number of years ethical concerns have been raised over the keeping of wild animals in travelling circuses and six years ago, in response to these concerns, the Government introduced the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012.

The aim of these Regulations was to promote and ensure high standards of welfare for all wild animals used in travelling circuses within England and they require any travelling circuses to obtain a licence from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). To obtain a licence the circus must satisfy certain criteria and also meet ten specific licence conditions, including: acquisition of animals; notification of tour itinerary; regular veterinary care of licensed wild animals; wild animal records; individual and group care plans; amongst others.

Part of the Regulations require that a review into their effectiveness be carried out five years after coming into force. Defra has carried out this review and published the findings in a Post Implementation Review 2018. The Review considers that the Regulations have successfully promoted and monitored high standards of welfare for wild animals in travelling circuses in England and states that: “Over the five years the scheme has been in force, over 90% of licensing conditions/standards appear to have been met first time”. 

The Regulations were not meant to act as a lasting piece of legislation, and part of the Regulations states that they will cease to have an effect seven years after they came into force. It is the Government’s intention that a legislative ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses is introduced before this point, therefore the Regulations will expire on 19 January 2020.

Additional background information on the use of wild animals in circuses and the progress of legislation in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may be found in a briefing paper written by Elena Ares: ‘Briefing Paper: Wild Animals in Circuses’.

The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012: Post Implementation Review 2018 (January 2018). A4, 23 pages. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. URN: BIS/16/258. Further information available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-welfare-of-wild-animals-in-travelling-circuses-england-regulations-2012-post-implementation-review.

Briefing Paper Number CBP05992: Wild Animals in Circuses (March 2018). A4, 18 pages. House of Commons Library, London, UK. Available online at: https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN05992.

E Carter,


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