British Poultry Council to publish animal welfare guidance
Published:  29 March, 2016

The British Poultry Council (BPC) is to publish industry-led guidance in the poultry sector, following the government’s decision to repeal official guidance on animal welfare standards. 

First reported in The Guardian, the decision is part of a move to “industry-led guidance” by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The supporting welfare codes will be updated by the industry, with the endorsement of Defra. The industry will provide producers with information on the requirements to comply with the legislation.

A spokeswoman for Defra said the legislation was not being changed.

Defra said: “No changes are being made to farm animal welfare legislation or the strict enforcement and penalties that apply.

“Instead, the British Poultry Council has produced new non-statutory guidance on how to comply with the legislation.

“The industry-led guidance can also be used as evidence in court to prove criminal liability and will ensure farmers have the most up-to-date and practical information.”

Defra also confirmed it would begin working with other livestock sectors such as cattle, sheep and pig farming on similar reforms.

In a statement, the BPC said: “We welcomed the opportunity to be the first industry to review the welfare guidance, a piece of work which has received ministerial endorsement. Other sectors are preparing to do the same, and the BPC plans to review and update the duck and turkey codes in 2017. Without this change in Defra policy a large number of statutory codes would never be reviewed. Many of these codes are outdated and Defra does not have the resource to review all of the codes. The chicken guidance has been reviewed using a significant amount of resource from the industry.

“Organisations had the opportunity to comment on the Defra consultation on the reform of the welfare codes. Comments were considered and included in the reviewed guidance and we worked very closely with Defra to ensure there was no weakening of the guidance. The Farm Animal Welfare Committee were among those consulted and were satisfied with the content. We have ensured throughout this process that we have strengthened the code using scientific evidence to support sections of the guidance. This is not a best-practice document, although some aspects of the guidance are.”

BPC chairman John Reed said: “We were determined to ensure that we protected the integrity of the code. It was critical for the BPC to achieve the endorsement from Defra to ensure its credibility and acceptance by charities, retailers and the industry itself. A robust review procedure will be put in place to ensure that the requirements in the code are kept up to date with any new legislation and research.”

The move has been opposed by shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy. She said: “Abandoning codes of practice for farm animal welfare is not in the best interests of the animals and will not produce higher-quality food.”