Caring for farm animal welfare to healthy and safe food
By keeping and using farm animals, man receives a large variety of products. Cows, goats, sheep and pigs provide us with food of animal origin (meat, milk and eggs), but also clothing and footwear, cosmetics, drugs and other products.
With the aim of increasing production volume, with the minimum of time and money spent, intensive industrial farming systems are used today, which seriously impair the welfare of animals. In order to prevent animal health problems caused by inappropriate housing and breeding conditions, antibiotics and hormones are used, which endanger human health.
Animal welfare standards have been established to promote human healthy and good safety. These standards regulate conditions that must be met when farm animals are bred, transported and slaughtered in order to improve their welfare.
ORCA is working to improve the capacity of state administration to assess farm animal welfare for more effective oversight of the implementation of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets minimum animal welfare standards. ORCA is also developing a private, higher standard of farm animal welfare to provide animals with better conditions and safer and healthier food for citizens.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Quality and safe food for consumers
Research shows that meat and meat products, originating from industrial farming systems, contain less important nutrients and higher amounts of fat, which can contribute to obesity and consequential health problems. Contrary to that, meat and meat products derived from animals bred to higher standards of welfare contain higher amounts of antioxidants and iron and less fat (CIWF, 2012). Also, there are no traces of antibiotics in them, since their non-selective administration to animals is prohibited by those higher standards. Clearly, ensuring animal welfare is key to producing healthy and safe food. That is why it is important to know the conditions in which the animals are grown, because this is how we protect our health, the health of our children and create a safer and healthier world.
Higher productivity and profit for farmers
If animals are bred according to high standards of welfare, that is, if the environment in which they live is adapted to their needs, they will not be exposed to stress and the energy they receive from the feed will be used for growth and productivity. Otherwise, it would be used to adapt to poor living conditions and combat stress. Successful farmers know that if animals are provided with everything they need – a good environment, care, the ability to exhibit different forms of behaviors, then these animals will provide the farmer with what he needs – productivity growth and profit. Farm animals bred in accordance with higher animal welfare standards are usually healthier, which reduces mortality rate, injuries, the use of medicines, and therefore the cost to producers.
Improved animal welfare
Higher welfare standards for farm animals imply better breeding conditions. For example, farms that respect higher standards of animal welfare have a lower population density, cramped cages, isolation and tethering are prohibited, and animals have greater space for movement and a comfortable resting area. They also allow grazing and outdoor staying, as well as the ability to exhibit natural behavior, such as pecking with poultry, rolling in mud and making nests before giving birth with pigs and more. On farms like these, animals are usually happier and healthier because their needs, usual for their species, are fulfilled.
Put a sheet of paper on the floor and crouch on it. Try squatting on it for a few minutes. It’s hard, isn’t it? Now imagine that you have to stay crouched on that piece of paper all your life. This is how, in industrial systems, live the chickens from which we get eggs. Industrial animal breeding involves intensive systems that seriously impair animal welfare. The main goal of these systems is to maximize production with minimum time and money involved. In intensive systems, animals in confined spaces are prevented from moving and exhibiting normal behavior. Such conditions lead to a range of health problems, injuries and the development of pathological behaviors, such as self-harming.
Many factors contribute to the production of safe and healthy food, but animal health and welfare are of crucial importance (World Organization for Animal Health – RES, 2004).
Antibiotics and hormones are used to accelerate animal growth and prevent health problems caused by inappropriate breeding space and conditions. Scientific research by the world’s leading experts in the field of human and animal health has shown that overuse of antibiotics and hormones in livestock production has a direct consequence on human health. There is a link between farm animal stress and the health of people who feed on their products.
Farm animal welfare standards are documents aimed at ensuring good farming practices. They cover various aspects of animal life, such as nutrition, the environment in which they live, how they are treated, their health, and the process of transport and slaughter. All the food we eat is subject to veterinary inspection control and must be produced in accordance with the so-called minimum animal welfare standards defined by the Animal Welfare Act. It is the responsibility of every manufacturer, carrier and slaughterhouse to comply with these minimum standards.
In recent years, there has been a growing consumer awareness of the importance of eating quality, safe and healthy foods. Consumers believe that farm animals should be kept, fed and reproduced in natural conditions in such a way that their needs are met and that they can display their natural behavior. They want more than minimum standards: they want to buy foods that are produced in a process where greater animal welfare is ensured. For this reason, there are several private certification schemes in the European Union countries that guarantee consumers that a particular product is made in compliance with these high farm animal welfare standards.
Every time you spend money, you‘re casting a vote for the kind of world you want (Anna Lappe, author of a book on sustainable nutrition).
In Serbia, based on the results of a national farm animal welfare survey and experience from European countries, ORCA has drafted higher standards for farm animal welfare. These standards have been developed and adapted by leading European animal welfare experts from the University of Bristol (UK) and the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) with the support of local experts and based on EU practices. These are initial versions of the standard, so there is room for amendments before their final adoption. ORCA believes that the application of these standards will contribute to the development of good agricultural practices on farms, provide better conditions for farm animals, improve their health and wellbeing, contribute to the prevention of the spread of infectious animal diseases, increase profits for producers and provide healthy, quality and safe animal products for consumers.