DEFRA in retreat over farmed animal welfare

Posted on the 7th April 2016

The farming and environment ministry Defra has made a significant reversal on the future of the Codes governing farmed animal welfare.

The move comes after more than a week of campaigning by animal protection groups, who had been outraged by Defra’s decision to dilute the legal force of welfare Codes for farming, and to hand over responsibility for writing the rulebook to the industry itself. Animal Aid had been at the heart of the fightback, working closely with Animal Equality, Compassion in World Farming, Four Paws, Humane Society International, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Viva!.

Defra’s climb-down statement read in part:

‘In light of views raised, we have given the matter further consideration and believe we can achieve this objective by retaining the existing statutory codes. The work of the farming industry has been invaluable and we will continue to work with them to ensure our guidance is updated to best help them to comply with our high welfare standards.’

In response, Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler said:

‘We are pleased to hear that sustained campaigning pressure has compelled Defra to reverse its decision and retain the statutory element of the Codes. That means court cases stand a better chance of succeeding. However, our other major concern was the dominant role Defra was awarding the industry in the writing of these rulebooks on welfare.

‘It’s unclear from today’s statement, whether there has been a reversal on that front. It is vital that matters of welfare and what constitutes good and bad practice, are not left to those who systematically exploit farmed animals for profit. Suffering and exploitation are already absolutely integral to animal farming. To deregulate and dilute what slender protection currently exists would have been outrageous.’


  • The Codes that have been in dispute give detailed guidance about various farming practices that the legislation itself does not specify. The two key statutes are the 2006 Animal Welfare Act (which offers very general protection for farmed animals) and the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations (2007) which specifies certain conditions for different farmed animal species. The Codes give more detail still and while a breach of them does not constitute a criminal offence, they can be used in support of a prosecution.

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