Every year, the welfare of millions of animals raised for their meat, milk and eggs is seriously compromised. For years, Slow Food has been insisting on the need to introduce measures that take animal welfare into account, supporting farmers who choose to improve their standards beyond what is required by national laws. A question dear to the pillow projectwho presented some activities during the international event Cheese 2021: Consider Animals.
The industrial approach has transformed animal husbandry into “zootechnics”, that is to say the science of the exploitation of animal production, and breeders into “agricultural entrepreneurs”. It is not a question of a simple lexical observation of style, but of a fundamental change which had implications likely to upset the meaning of the relationship to the animal, even to distort it. This approach transferred to this sector the industrial principles of economies of scale and mechanization. But running farms like assembly lines is inhumane and, moreover, expensive. A heavy bill that we all pay, not only in terms of animal welfare, but also in terms of disease, poor food quality, environmental degradation and the climate crisis.
The network of breeders belonging to the Slow Food Presidia projects has long been the protagonist of virtuous choices: the producers’ reference farms are small-scale, semi-extensive or extensive, organic or low-input. They often preserve valuable native breeds. Other producers in the network still have to chart a path of improvement, looking for new, more appropriate solutions to guarantee animals a dignified life.
“The current system – explains Jacopo Goracci, zootechnician of Tenuta di Paganico, during a conference at Cheese 2021 – represents a great threat to the livelihoods of small farmers who cannot face the competition of huge productions and low prices given by the economies of scale implemented in the livestock sector. Moreover, the relationship between farmers and their livestock, developed over thousands of years, has been completely unbalanced”.
It is also from these assumptions that the Ppillow project was born: funded by the European Union, it aims to build solutions to improve the well-being of poultry and pigs reared in organic farming systems and outdoors with low environmental impact.
There are two particularities of the project. The first is the participatory approach, which involves all actors in the production chain, from breeders to consumers (including breeders, hatcheries, suppliers, processors, retailers, etc.), citizens, scientists and political decision-makers, to propose and study levers for improving well-being. The second is the ability to provide a combination of practical solutions for improving well-being that can be applied on a pan-European basis with specific adaptations depending on the target market.
So beyond easy animal welfare slogans, there was no better stage for the project than Cheese 2021: think about animalsto organize moments of in-depth reflection on the subject.
One of the topics discussed at the conference “Before charcuterie, think about animals” was the on-farm slaughter experimentation, a project of Tenuta di Paganico, where the director Jacopo Goracci participated in the work of task 1 of the project, collaborating in various discussion groups and NPG. Thanks to a collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture of Pisa and the support of the Tuscany Region, the farm has built an equipped trailer – built in Germany – to carry out the on-farm slaughter of Cinta Senese and crossbred pigs, raised by Tenuta di Paganico in a semi-extensive state. Thanks to a temporary authorization protocol agreed with the public health authorities, the stunning and hyugulation phases can be carried out on the farm, while the following cycles of dehairing, evisceration, halving and post-mortem hygiene checks take place at the slaughterhouse. . This operation allows the pigs to avoid the stress of transport and slaughter carried out by unknown operators, in a place unknown to the animals and where, unfortunately, respect for this crucial phase of life cannot be guaranteed, especially in subjects decidedly reluctant to handling and mechanization. The expected results obviously include an increase in the quality of the meat, which is then processed directly on the farm. An experience that Slow Food intends to disseminate more in its network so that more and more farmers can adopt it.
Animal welfare in the analysis of European GI production specifications
The international event was also an opportunity to present Slow Food’s latest research on European geographical indications for charcuterie: an analysis of the production specifications of 176 PDOs/PGIs in the pork sector. In fact, the main focus of the research is geographical indications which should protect and support traditional European food products, defend diversity and reward quality. Close scrutiny, however, focused primarily on product specifications, reveals many gray areas and ultimately a disheartening picture when it comes to sustainability, animal welfare and consumer health.
“European regulations will be reviewed, and we hope that the new specifications will be more rigorous on aspects related to the way animals are raised and fed, if they are to focus on sustainability and quality and stand out in the global market. “, said Raffaella. Ponzio, coordinator of the Slow Meat campaign. “Protecting a traditional product means guaranteeing the production conditions that have made its reputation and identity. We must not forget that animal welfare and nutrition are as fundamental to giving salumi their identity and guaranteeing their sensory quality as the know-how involved in their processing.
With this research, Slow Food has reiterated the importance of not only using local and indigenous breeds, but also production protocols that specifically include guidance on how animals are raised, with greater respect for their well-being. -to be ; better quality, locally sourced food; and slaughter near the farm.
PIGLOW, an app to assess animal welfare
On the last day of the international event, a round table took place where around fifty breeders, technicians and representatives of institutions discussed – also in the presence of the public – what animal welfare means. During the meeting, the Ppilow project and the pig welfare assessment application PIGLOW were officially presented.
“Animal welfare – explained Anna Zuliani, veterinarian of the Association Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (VSF) and Slow Food consultant for livestock projects and the Slow Meat campaign – cannot be evaluated as a given, apart from the well-being of humans and the context environment in which they are raised. The entire Ppilow project is inspired by the principles of OneWelfare, which sees well-being as the result of an optimal relationship between these subjects.
The development of an application aims to contribute to the monitoring and therefore to the continuous improvement of animal welfare on the farm. These applications are obviously a tool, probably not yet perfect, but essential to make farmers better aware of the situation of their farm and a track of possible improvements to be put in place. It is not based on the evaluation of breeding facilities but on the observation of animal-based indicators (lameness, ear and tail injuries, animal cleanliness, behavior, etc.).
Why download the application and do this analysis? Observing the animals, taking stock of the company’s situation, planning improvement actions, getting to know better the methods for assessing welfare (to align with the checks carried out by the authorities and to be able to interact with the responsible for controls), inform consumers of their commitment to animal welfare, who are increasingly interested in this subject.
The conference was also attended by the president of Federbio, Maria Grazia Mammuccini.
“We have signed a collaboration agreement with Slow Food on many subjects on which our positions are similar. One of them is zootechnics and animal welfare. It is essential – explained Maria Grazia Mammuccini – not only to monitor businesses, but also to help them on the path to more conscious animal welfare. In fact, this welfare is not only linked to the well-being of the animals raised on a given farm, but it also means the prevention of diseases, a stronger connection with the land and respect for the planet in general.
Agricultural systems and animals are living, complex systems that are highly integrated with the culture and livestock environment. The illusion that one can force these cycles by simplifying these large-scale relationships and ignoring the consequences, as if agriculture were an open-air factory, must end. There is a problem of environmental impact, spread of disease, quality of food, but also cruelty and inhumanity towards animals which is intolerable. Concrete alternative models must be proposed. Climate change has made us violently aware of all this. We must remain faithful to the principles and values that make organic farming a modern form of agriculture that reconciles environmental and social sustainability with economic sustainability. We certainly need many innovations, including technical ones, but firmly rooted in the principles enshrined in European legislation, to maintain a clear distinction between certified organic products and those from conventional agriculture, starting from the genetics of plants and animals. This means having soils that are no longer decertified by chemical agriculture, but rich in organic matter and alive because they are endowed with useful micro-organisms, in order to develop agriculture and livestock farming in dense environments with biodiversity characterized by variability. genetics adapted to local conditions and to the new situations we have to face”.
“At this precise historical moment – says Marcello Volanti, veterinarian and Ecor NaturaSì consultant – animals are in a sort of economic sphere, they are part of a production system that no longer recognizes them. We need to strike the right balance between humans and animals, between humanity and the planet at large, and between the needs of species and economic needs. Experience in the field is certainly fundamental and breeders – who are aware of this – know when their animals and their entire business are doing well”.
Slow Food will work for the full recognition of animal welfare as part of future food system sustainability strategies,” concluded Raphaelle Ponzio. “Already in the past, Slow Food has participated in various campaigns, European and otherwise, such as End of Cage, which has collected one and a half million signatures for the banning of cages and is committed in the future to fight against issues such as the protection of transport animals, as well as at the level of associative projects, in the preservation of animal biodiversity, the reduction of meat consumption and the promotion of those who breed in a sustainable way with the Slow Meat campaign.
Read more on www.ppilow.eu
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