Animal welfare rises on business agenda

Farm animal welfare has seen improved measures this year as the issue rises on the business agenda, according to a new report.

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) showed that 56% of the companies reviewed this year had published formal farm animal welfare policies, which is an 8% increase on the previous year.

It further stated that 41% had published objectives and targets for farm animal welfare, up from just 26% in 2012.

Expert advisor to the Business Benchmark Rory Sullivan commented: “A key conclusion to be drawn from the 2013 Benchmark is that farm animal welfare continues to be a systemic risk that many companies in the food industry are either not effectively managing or not properly reporting.

“For example, the fact that over half of the companies covered by the Benchmark provide little or no information on their approach suggests that farm animal welfare remains a relatively immature business issue.”

Out of the 70 companies assessed across Europe and the US, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, The Co-operative Food, Unilever and Noble Foods were among the top companies taking measures on farm animal welfare policies.

Mark Atherton-Ranson, agriculture sourcing and animal welfare manager at Marks & Spencer, said: “At M&S the Benchmark has become a key tool in driving improvements in our farm animal welfare reporting approach. For instance, the M&S farm animal welfare policy and animal welfare charter on our website were revised last year to address the specific comments raised in the first BBFAW report about M&S.

“We intend to use the annual Benchmark as a means of providing further clarity on our animal welfare requirements and activities for the benefit of our consumers and investors.”

The report was produced with support from animal welfare organisations such as Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

CiWF CEO Philip Lymbery was pleased with the success and said: “The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare has played a catalytic role in putting farm animal welfare on the business agenda. It has pushed companies to acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue and, critically, it has forced them to take action.”