12th December 2017
Committee Room G, House of Lords
Adapting to the Future in Livestock Production
Richard Griffith British Poultry Council
Dr Georgina Crayford National Pig Association
Professor David C Barrett Bristol Veterinary School
Dominic Morrey Fresh Booker Group
Dr Paul Williams MSD Animal Health
John Fishwick President, British Veterinary Association
Peter Stevenson Compassion in World Farming
Other participants: Gwyn Jones (RUMA), Professor Tim Morris (Animal Health and Welfare Board England), David Bowles (RSPCA), Bryan Griffiths (National Sheep Association), Catherine McLaughlin (NFU), Michael Bellingham (Petfood Manufacturer’s Association), Charles Sercombe (NFU Poultry Division), Dawn Howard (NOAH), Ben Myring (RCVS)
Regardless of Brexit, there should be no dilution of standards. We are on an upwards journey and whilst anti-biotic use is a huge challenge we are seeing improvements. The major challenge is in trading and we must be sure and definite in our voice as to what we want. That means we need to convince the world our standards are worth paying for.
Animal health and animal welfare are inextricably linked. Farms need to be profitable to invest in infrastructure which supports welfare. A 2017 study of pig farms shows half are over 20 years old. Financial support is needed to build fit for purpose farms and improve the infrastructure. The pig sector has set its own realistic targets to reduce antibiotic use by 40% by 2020 which meant they had ownership of it and that is why it has been effective. The pig sector faces a range of endemic diseases which need to be addressed. Strong border control to protect against endemic diseases is important.
Grazing livestock are very important to global food security. Disease incidents are too high and control of endemic disease will have a big impact on use of antibiotic use. All medicines are not bad and vaccines can help here. We need to use less antimicrobials and the best way to achieve this is simply not to need them by preventative measures. High animal welfare is a large part of these measures.
The failure to control infectious disease affects productivity and sustainability. One of the most effective ways to reduce antimicrobial use is to prevent and so we need a more proactive approach to preventative health planning. The challenge is to encourage the utilisation of vaccinations to prevent disease. Take up is low. 22% of cattle and sheep are vaccinated. Vaccines are seen as expensive but most farms do not accurately measure disease on their farms and cannot identify the subsequent costs. In the UK for a vaccine to be licensed, it must be proven to work. Use of vaccines does not prevent trade. The way forward should sponsor and reward better engagement between farmers and vets.
Bookers supplies 80,000 retailers and 450 caterers. We source the products which they demand and are the largest catering butcher in the UK. We source UK products and EU imported as well as from Australia, U.S and Brazil etc. In the UK are accustomed to high welfare standards and so we seek similar standards from the overseas products. We do not see anything changing with Brexit. Our customers expect that to continue and we will deliver it. For example; we only sell lion marked eggs so if we source eggs from Brazil if they cannot meet that standards we would not work with their suppliers. There are no international legal restrictions on us doing that. Consumers want transparency and with that they can influence the market.
UK welfare standards are at the top and these must not drop. We can see keeping such standards as a cost but they are more likely to be the selling point for trade deals in a competitive environment. We need preventative health planning on farms. So far the setting antimicrobial targets have been positive and these were not set by Government but by working with the sector to get consensus. Subsidies should be moved towards public good – welfare and the environment- and then farmers will be able to move forward working together with a farm evidence base provided by a vibrant research base. We need to ensure we have the vets to support this including those in abattoirs of which currently 95% come from overseas.
If the Government is not able to protect farmers from lower welfare imports, it will cause huge problems. We need a clause to ensure imports meet welfare standards within this country. Funding should be made available based on outcomes to support high welfare, for example; to farmers who get their pigs to slaughter with their tails still intact, dairy farmers who keep cows at pasture. This must then all be supported by giving consumers information via mandatory labelling.
Points of Discussion
Meat exports are a small element of our trade export so it could be easy for Government to give way of this rising WTO rules which would be damaging to farming. Stakeholders needs to be pushing the case relentlessly.
Defra has reignited a task force on public procurement. We need to keep as much British food as possible in the UK chain so we can control standards.
Most people assume intensive farming is bad but the focus needs to be on animal outcomes. We need sustainable efficient systems with high welfare. We need to talk about stocking density and housing rather than using terms like intensive.
We need to reduce incidents of endemic disease with a targeted approach. Highlight the key diseases and look for structures to deliver the solutions.
Brexit should be an opportunity to incentive better welfare. Environmental Stewardship Schemes could be used as a model and welfare included in them. ½ billion spent in countryside enhancement.
Weak link is catering and ready made foods.
Environmental Stewardship Schemes (or equivalent mechanisms) to include welfare
The roundtable agreed it might be useful to put the relevant bodies together to collectively identify the key diseases and possible ways of tackling them through a myriad of tools including vaccines, husbandry etc which would seek some Government support.
Environmental Stewardship Schemes