Collaboration Key to Meeting Consumers´ Expectations for Better Animal Welfare

Collaboration between veterinarians and producers is crucial in order to meet public demands of high animal welfare, according to international experts at recent Boehringer Ingelheim’s Expert Forum on Farm Animal Well-Being.

Over 100 delegates from 17 countries gathered in the historic city of Prague last week (6-8 June) for the 12th edition of this conference hosted by leading global animal health firm, Boehringer Ingelheim.

Since 2008, the Forum has brought together animal scientists, retailers, veterinarians, producers and industry advocates to discuss the latest research, data and visions on improving the welfare of animals that supply essential global food chains.

 

 

This year’s event asked the question: Do consumers and citizens want the same thing? The difference between the two was highlighted by Laura Higham of FAI Farms, who spoke of the ‘citizen shift’, in which individuals who wish to have a greater influence over society – including animal health and welfare – are utilizing spending power to drive ethical food supply chains.

Ms Higham also discussed the variance in farm assurance schemes and whether or not the current schemes meet consumers’ expectations for better animal welfare.

Despite this proven ‘citizen shift’, willingness-to-pay for higher welfare is a still a massive issue facing the industry, as noted by Dr Lynn Fewer, Newcastle University. “Concerns associated with farm animal welfare and production may not correspond to purchase and consumption practices, with sales of welfare friendly products much lower than the reported levels of concern. This suggests a discrepancy between an individual’s role as a citizen and as a consumer, such that citizens and consumers have different concerns in different contexts.”

Sustainable supply chains were on the agenda in talks from Robert Erhard, Nestlé, and Dr Jeff Brose, Cargill Animal Nutrition, USA; while Dr Rory Sullivan, Chronos Sustainability, explained to delegates the importance of global benchmarking schemes on farm animal welfare for global food companies.

When it came to defining what animal welfare really means, speakers across the board were keen to highlight that it does not just mean physical health. “It’s essential to remember that animals with the absence of pain don’t necessarily have good welfare,” explained Charlotte Winder, from the University of Guelph, Canada, in her speech about how vets can assess pain levels in livestock.

This concept led to further discussions on ethical beef production from Rob Drysdale from StraightLine Beef, UK, and the fascinating link between antimicrobial resistance and animal welfare from Professor Xavier Manteca, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain.

Marianne Villettaz Robichaud, University of Montreal, Canada discussed the latest evidence on lying time and cow comfort, while Leopoldo Stuardo Escobar from the World Organisation for Animal Health, France, gave an insight into the OIE Global Animal Welfare Strategy.

Even with access to the latest research and technology, one of the biggest blockers in achieving high animal welfare is behaviour and attitudes, as highlighted by Dr Anna Wilson and Katie Morton from Innovia, UK. In their address to delegates and through an insightful interactive workshop, the duo gave practical advice on how to alter both professional and farmer behaviour in order to make the end goal of high animal welfare more attainable.

With consumers and stakeholders in the food industry increasingly interested in the production systems behind food products, a key outcome of the conference was the need for greater collaboration between veterinarians and farmers to ensure supply chains are both sustainable and maximizing farm animal welfare.

 

 

“We are dedicated to finding ways to improve farm outcomes through supporting farm animal well-being,” said Dr Laurent Goby, senior global marketing manager at Boehringer Ingelheim. “Forums such as these are pivotal in bringing the best in the business together to explore, discuss and enlighten others on how we can work together to achieve this for industry professionals, farmers and most importantly, consumers.”

 

Boehringer Ingelheim also maintains a website dedicated to farm animal well-being (www.farmanimalwellbeing.com) which contains all information, including the papers that were presented in Prague as well as details of previous meetings.

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