A new government plan to improve farm animal welfare must not distract from ministers backtracking on fur and foie gras bans, critics have warned.
Farmers will be encouraged to keep cows, pigs and sheep healthier and in better conditions under the “animal health and well-being course» Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs plan.
The pay-for-results program will include annual visits by a veterinarian paid for by the government, and grants will be available for equipment and technology or to improve livestock housing to reduce lameness and calf mortality. .
Farmers will be encouraged to improve biosecurity to control pig diseases and improve the feather cover of laying hens, the government says.
Laying hens often suffer from bald patches where they are repeatedly pecked by others due to frustration caused by overcrowding, and pigs regularly have their tails and teeth clipped for similar reasons.
The government has also pledged for the first time to implement the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), which calls for slower growing breeds and lower stocking densities.
Hidden cameras inside chicken coops that supply supermarkets have repeatedly shown birds struggling to breathe and collapsing under their own weight because they are bred to grow exceptionally quickly.
And dying birds are also cannibalized by others or trampled due to crowded conditions.
The Humane League, which has long lobbied supermarkets, chefs and caterers to adopt the Best Chicken Pledge, hailed the official policy as “a really important and welcome step”.
But spokeswoman Hannah Yates added: ‘This should not be used to distract from the worrying rollback on the legal ban on fur and foie gras.’
The government is reportedly set to drop Foreign Animals Bill plans to ban imports of fur and foie gras after cabinet members Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brandon Lewis and Ben Wallace are opposed.
It sparked a furious backlash across the UK, with animal welfare organizations uniting to condemn the decision while hoping the ban could be introduced through another bill.
Naturalist Chris Packham launched a petition against dropping the ban, saying, “In a civilized society, freedom of choice cannot be allowed to trump moral decency.”
A new academic analysis of public attitudes towards fur sales found that 83.4% disapproved of imports.
The study, based on nine opinion polls between 1997 and 2021, also found that 78.4% supported a total ban on UK fur imports and sales.
Images and eyewitness accounts from inside fur farms have shown mink, raccoon dogs and foxes suffering from infected, painful wounds and mental torture from being caged.
Ms Yates added: “The fact that the Government is willing to help fund the transition to BCC raises the question of why supermarkets are still lagging behind when it comes to improving the welfare of chickens. .
“While leading companies in other sectors such as KFC, Nestlé, Kraft-Heinz and Sodexo have all entered BCC, only Waitrose and M&S have entered the retail sector.
“Supermarkets should invest their profits in improving basic animal welfare standards, especially since taxpayers are going to pay for these improvements.”
Andrew Opie, Food and Sustainability Director at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Our members take their animal welfare responsibilities very seriously and ensure it is a key to production standards for all the meat they sell.
“Retailers are already giving consumers a choice of how their chicken is raised, including free-range and organic chicken, in addition to the standard range.”