“I already have excellent welfare and productivity on my unit, why should I pay to demonstrate something I already know?”
Most units already have good standards of welfare – it is something our industry is very proud of. However results from Real Welfare enable producers to benchmark themselves against all other pig units. The systematic way of assessing pig welfare in the Real Welfare scheme allows the identification of areas for further enhancement.
The results can be used to demonstrate to customers the industry’s commitment to welfare. We know we have good welfare but do the supermarkets or the shoppers in the store? Real Welfare is the means of supporting this commitment made by the industry.
“I see my pigs every day. I shouldn’t have to pay my vet an extra three hours each year to look at them.”
We agree that you know the condition of your pigs better than anyone. But rather than simply seeing, Real Welfare assessments offer the opportunity to observe systematically. Having a vet observe pigs for welfare outcomes offers a chance for a fresh pair of eyes, as well as allowing producers to see developments over time. Real Welfare ensures that a certain amount of time is dedicated solely to assessing welfare systematically and because every vet has been trained to assess welfare outcomes in the same way as all other vets, the results are comparable between units.
“Why can’t I do the Real Welfare protocol myself? Or my stockman?”
A key feature of Real Welfare is that it is a standardisedmethod. This ensures the method is repeatable, results are directly comparable and there is little opportunity for bias. To maintain this standardisation, those carrying out the Real Welfare protocol must undergo training. Vets are in an excellent position to as they know the unit and see others like them. They are in a good position to give advice when and where needed. Relying on vets to carry out the protocol means fewer people need to be trained in the sampling procedures involved.
“I don’t see how Real Welfare benefits the industry.”
Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in welfare and retailers are aware of this. If Real Welfare had not been introduced, pressure to implement similar schemes is likely to have come from the supermarkets. By developing a nationwide scheme we have a single scheme with input from across the industry.
Also, we know that as an industry we have optimum standards of pig welfare but this doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels. Progress is essential to remain competitive. Measuring and monitoring welfare using the Real Welfare scheme will help push the industry forward in terms of raising the bar of welfare standards.
“Real Welfare is just more red tape and cost.”
Yes there is a cost involved but investment in the welfare of pigs is vital to the survival of the industry and protection of the premium pork attracts. Assured British pork currently enjoys a price premium of 18.4p/kg, the equivalent to £14.70 per pig.
The argument that Real Welfare is just more red tape is misinformed. Identification of welfare issues as a result of Real Welfare may require some changes to be made on a farm but the benefits to welfare and productivity will warrant the effort/cost.
“I already comply with welfare legislation.”
We don’t deny that this is the case. Fulfilling the legislative tick-box list of building, ventilation, nutrition and management requirements (INPUTS) is one thing but pigs may still show signs of there being a problem with their environment (OUTCOMES). Real Welfare enables the identification of areas where the system is not fulfilling the pig’s needs even where legislative requirements have been met.
Methods of evaluating welfare are currently being explored by the European Commission and it intends to adopt a more outcome-based approach, such as that used by Real Welfare. This shows that we are moving in the right direction and our industry will be well placed to meet any future legislative requirements that come out of the EU.