Defra looks to share welfare decisions

Defra has launched a consultation exercise on the principles that will help shape future policy on the sharing of responsibilities and costs in relation to animal health and welfare.

The consultation seeks to open a discussion with the livestock industry, consumers and all those with an interest in animal health and welfare on the future management of animal health policy. A spokesman for Defra said this type of approach would allow improved regulation and reduce the future regulatory burden.

He added that the industry would benefit from an increased involvement in the decision-making process in this area, which should result in a greater ability to deliver efficient solutions in the future.

Animal welfare minister Ben Bradshaw said: "This consultation is about defining a new relationship between government and industry. How that will work needs to be developed in partnership, but the focus is a sharing of responsibility. I want to see the farming industry increasingly take ownership of animal health and welfare issues and share the financial burden. And I want the industry more focused on making its own decisions and managing its own risks."

Chairman of BPEX Stewart Houston, who is also joint chairman of the industry/government working group on 'Sharing Responsibilities and Costs of Animal Disease' said: "Firstly, government would have to be willing to give up some of its current responsibilities - and that's no mean feat. Secondly, industry has to be willing to take on responsibility. There is a big mind-set change on both sides for that to happen."

The consultation, which will close on 12 March 2007, applies to England only; parallel consultations have been issued in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.