I am appalled to learn that as DEFRA Minister, Liz Truss intends to scrap the statutory code on farm animal welfare and move to ͚industry-led guidance, starting with poultry farming, provisionally on April 27, the day that guidelines from the British Poultry Council will be made public; from then on the BPC will become the new regulatory body.
In spite of claims from DEFRA that animal welfare would not be compromised, and legislation would remain in place, there are deep concerns from animal protection organisations including Viva! Animal Aid, Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA, that standards would not be rigorously upheld.Indeed, the poultry industry’s inability to regulate itself is clearly demonstrated by the chicken bug scandal last year, when the Food Standards Watchdog found that around eight out of ten fresh chickens bought from British supermarkets were contaminated with campylobacter, the potentially lethal food poisoning bug, cost the NHS nearly £900m. Furthermore, not a single poultry or supermarket chain was found to be meeting national targets. Cuts in animal welfare inspection services have resulted in lower standards, giving rise to outbreaks of BSE and foot and mouth disease in cattle, swine flu and salmonella in eggs. Although animal cruelty has by no means been eliminated from the farming industry (readers may recall the successful prosecution of Bernard Matthews workers who were filmed playing baseball with and brutally kicking live turkeys) it is at least recognised as a key component of animal welfare, which giant poultry groups think dominate the market are said to regard as a comprehensive disadvantage. It is difficult to believe that standards will not deteriorate with self-interest groups in charge.
No doubt there are individuals who maintain high animal welfare and bio-security standards conscientiously, but overall, deregulation is a retrograde move for both the animals concerned and those who consume them.
Liz Truss has a lot to answer for.
Anna Reeves, Saddlebow, Lynn