RSPCA praises EU investment

A European Union programme that provides funding to farmers for livestock welfare improvements has reduced problems in animal health, according to the RSPCA.

In a review of the EU's rural development programme (RDP), which specifically looked at funding in Scotland, the RSPCA found that the RDP had a positive impact on farmers' perceptions of animal welfare and that there had been an apparent shift in farmer spending, from disease treatment to spending on preventive medicine.

RSPCA head of external affairs David Bowles said: "This review looks specifically at RDPs in Scotland and shows the clear benefits of such a programme. It is hoped the programmes coming on-stream now will provide additional data and information in the future."

Entitled 'Targeted Help' and launched at a conference in Cyprus this month, the RSPCA review also found that both farmers and vets had reported the first signs of economic and animal health and welfare benefits due to the RDPs.

RDPs are a structured system of payments from the EU to reward animal welfare that has been in existence since 1999.

Bowles added: "Our review recognised improvements have occurred that would not have been seen if left to market forces, particularly as transmission of animal welfare attributes through the marketing chain are not easily available for species such as sheep and dairy cattle."

The funding can be used to modernise farming techniques, improve infrastructure and help with marketing products made under higher welfare standards.