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UK Poultry Welfare Assessment Systems Approved

28 August 2013

UK - The EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) has broadly approved the UK's systems for evaluating the implementation of EU animal welfare legislation for meat chickens and turkeys.

The UK relies on commercial quality assurance (QA) schemes to fill some legislative gaps.

The approval of the systems follows a Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) audit, which took place in the United Kingdom (UK) between 24 February and 1 March 2013.

The objective of the audit was to evaluate the implementation of EU animal welfare legislation regarding farm animals, in particular farms keeping chickens for the production of meat, and other species covered by the Recommendations from the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes ('CoE Recommendations').

It was concluded that the UK has not fully implemented all the CoE Recommendations for major farmed species in legislation or through administrative measures such as the UK Welfare Codes of Recommendations but instead relies on commercial quality assurance (QA) schemes to fill the legislative gaps.

With respect to turkeys, which was the sector that was dealt with in some depth during this audit, the QA schemes often give greater guidance or prescriptive measures than those laid down in CoE Recommendations but these are not mandatory. The QA bodies do not carry out official controls and they are not audited by the Competent Authority (CA). The CA's reliance on QA schemes to fill the legislative gaps does not provide an assurance that the whole sector complies with all legal obligations.

FVO says the UK has put in place a well conceived and generally well implemented system for assessing and reporting on welfare indicators found at post-mortem in poultry slaughterhouses.

Improvements in the welfare of chickens reared for meat are being targeted through the development of actions plans at farm level and graduated enforcement action.

According to the report, it is not clear yet whether the system has been effective at raising the level of welfare on meat chicken farms but it has certainly generated enough information for the CA to be in a position to move more quickly in this direction. However, actions taken in response to exception reporting of severe welfare conditions found at slaughter noted by the audit team did not merit any visits or escalated enforcement action or feedback of information to the reporting OVs in the slaughterhouse visited and were therefore not fully effective.

The CA has a well developed and generally satisfactory system of official controls to implement the meat chicken Directive on farm which targets the majority of premises by risk analysis, both at the initial selection of farms for cross-compliance inspections, and then as a result of information (triggers) received from slaughterhouse checks.

However, the FVO audit found that the absolute number of inspections visits arising from each of these risk-targeting processes is relatively low in relation to the scale of production and the number of animals involved. Environmental parameters are not being adequately controlled due to the relatively low number of visits (and insufficient evidence obtained therefrom) and also because action plans (produced in response to post-mortem trigger reports) make no reference to these requirements of the Directive set down in national law.

Sufficient training for keepers of meat chickens, of a recognised standard, and provided within a national proficiency framework, is available to address the requirements of Article 4 of Directive 2007/43/EC.

The FVO report concludes by makes a number of recommendations to the UK competent authorities, aimed at rectifying the shortcomings identified and enhancing the implementing and control measures in place.

TheMeatSite News Desk

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