It is difficult to give a precise definition of animal welfare. Everyone sets their own limits and has their own views. However, it is still important to try to agree on a clear and common definition, and be ready to accept the inevitable significant economic repercussions.
It is a difficult issue in many ways, capable of setting off heated debates, in the face of which it might be easier to avoid taking a position. At the same time it is a topic that calls for serious consideration in order to safeguard human health, promote a more sustainable environment and allow small-scale farmers to continue their work whilst respecting the welfare of animals.
In the current system, the welfare of millions of animals raised for their meat, milk and eggs is seriously compromised. Industrial livestock production is also significantly jeopardizing environmental sustainability, human health and the livelihood of small-scale farmers and rural communities.
These issues are all aspects of a bigger question: What future do we want for our planet?
It is not always easy for consumers to reconsider their consumption of meat and animal products, or their choices when it comes to respecting animals used for food. It can be even more complex for a farmer, as modifying husbandry practices or updating facilities could mean increased production costs in a highly competitive market.
To gain a deeper understanding of meat consumption and animal welfare, we decided to collect the opinions of Slow Food network members and Presidia producers. In summer 2013, a survey was sent out to European members and producers via email. A similar survey is now due to be launched in the USA and Brazil.
The answers from Europe were very encouraging, highlighting the level of attention that Slow Food network members and producers pay to the issue.
Around 70% of respondents were concerned with the health and environmental implications of current meat consumption and production trends. 52% were in agreement that animals, as sentient beings, deserve more respectful treatment. A staggering 90% was of the opinion that animal welfare does not receive enough attention in their home country, with almost 50% of respondents calling for Slow Food to raise awareness of the issue amongst institutions, and support farmers in their quest towards higher animal welfare standards. The majority of respondents were not satisfied with the current labeling system, which does not allow for more conscious choices to be made. As many consumers would be willing to spend more for high welfare products, this lack of information is a problem.
To read the results of the European member survey, click here
Slow Food also recently published a policy paper on animal welfare, which details the association's approach to the issue and outlines its future involvement. As part of its efforts on animal welfare, Slow Food is committed to:
- reviewing, alongside the producers, the production protocols of the Presidia involving livestock by 2020 to ensure all are compliant with good animal welfare practices;
- promoting educational initiatives on farm animal welfare and meat consumption. Through dedicated campaigns, Slow Food wants to raise consumer awareness of the importance of reducing meat consumption and choosing meat from farms that pay attention to high quality, natural feed and the natural behaviour of animals;
- supporting efforts to request mandatory labeling of products that specify methods of production, as a fair step towards consumers, producers and farm animals. Slow Food's narrative labels are a positive example of a labeling system that allows consumers to easily understand where the product comes from and how it was produced.
To read the full policy paper, click here
For further information