If the e-zine layout is not properly displayed, please follow this link.
logo
koeienconsumentvarkenskippen
 
  Electronic newsletter of the Welfare Quality Project FOOD-CT-2004-506508 logos
  
 
28 -30 april 2009
Final meeting Subproject 2
on the asessment system
Stockholm Sweden

6-10 May 2009
Welfare Quality® at the
Agraria Exhibition,
Austria

17 - 19 May 2009
Welfare Quality® at the
Interfood exhibition,
Sweden

18 - 22 May 2009
8TH European symposium on poultry welfare
Cervia, Italy

6 - 10 July 2009
ISAE, 43rd International Congress
Cairns, Australia

22-23 September 2009
Animal Protection and Welfare conference
Brno, the Czech Republic

7-9 October 2009
Welfare Quality® at the
Sommet élevage exhibition,
France

8-9 October 2009
Final stakeholder conference
Welfare Quality® Project
Uppsala, Sweden

 
Valuable Resource but not the Holy Grail
 
                                                                                                                        Harry Blokhuis
Welfare Quality® has become well-known both in Europe and worldwide. People frequently refer to our project at conferences. Welfare Quality® also features in policy papers and discussions (e.g. within both the European Commission and the European Parliament). What was originally a project acronym has developed into a catch phrase that is used even in normal everyday language. This illustrates the widespread recognition of the aims of this project and contributes enormously to the impact of our work.
I do notice a number of misunderstandings as to what we will deliver.
• Sometimes people refer to Welfare Quality® ´standards´. Instead of setting standards, we develop standardized ways of assessing animal welfare and a standardized way of integrating this information, enabling farms and slaughterhouses to be assigned to one of four categories (from poor to good animal welfare).
• Some people believe that our main goal is to develop a Welfare Quality® label. This is not the case. We do not consider that to be our ‘core business’. Instead, we develop assessment and integration systems, practical improvement strategies and support tools around these. Further use and implementation of outcomes lies in the role of external actors such as private companies, production chains, existing quality schemes, etc.
• Every now and again, some people say ‘just wait until this project is finished, then we will get all the solutions and we will know what to do to ensure good animal welfare’. I feel these people may have set their expectations too high. We have made excellent progress: we defined clear principles and criteria for good animal welfare, we developed and standardized practical assessment measures for the main categories of food producing animals, we developed a standardized procedure to integrate information from the different welfare domains, we developed practical welfare improvement strategies and many support tools. But Welfare Quality® will not provide the ‘holy grail’. The outcomes of our work will continue to evolve. Read more
Harry Blokhuis, project coordinator, harry.blokhuis@hmh.slu.se
 
Technical Descriptions Assessment System
 
 
The Welfare Quality® assessment system is almost ready. We described "the road towards the system" in a popular fact sheet, to clarify how the system was developed. We have continued our collaboration with NEN, the Dutch Normalisation Institute, who have assisted us in describing the Welfare Quality® protocols for pigs, cattle and poultry, which enable the assessment of animals on the farm and at the slaughterhouse. In these protocols, we have brought together many of the different work areas within the Welfare Quality® project. The protocols contain descriptions of the methods to be used along with reference photographs, technical specifications for any specific methods used, and an explanation of the process to combine the information collected on the farm and at the slaughterhouse into results and
 
 Andy Butterworth scores. The ‘integrated’ nature of this process is also described. The strength of the Welfare Quality® integrated animal welfare assessment system lies in using the measures together and in an agreed way. Critically, the measures must be applied following agreed training, to ensure a harmonized, reliable, repeatable and robust outcome. The importance of training for any person or organization that may adopt the Welfare Quality® approach is discussed in the protocol documents. This has been a fruitful collaboration with NEN, and it is anticipated that these documents will be available at the Final Stakeholder Conference to be held in Uppsala, Sweden (8 and 9 October 2009).
Andy Butterworth, andy.butterworth@bristol.ac.uk
 
Assessment Information as Management Support
 
In the implementation studies in pigs, cattle and poultry, we have continued to use and to refine the animal welfare assessment tools. These studies ask a seemingly simple question: if farm animals are assessed for lameness, tail biting, body condition, etc. and we provide the producer with information on how they are doing compared to other farmers and information on how to improve, can this information be successfully used to support management decisions, and lead to improvements in both animal welfare and farm production?
By tackling welfare problems through a management support route, not only may welfare be improved, but it is also possible that there will be increased farm productivity through reduced losses from skin disease, lameness, damage during slaughter, etc. In a number of projects, we have been building links with commercial farm partners to provide animal welfare information that is of real use to the business. One example is the use of automatic cameras in slaughterhouses in the UK, the Netherlands and Italy, which record and score the levels of foot pad problems in broiler chicken. When this information is added to the farm management systems operated by the companies, it is possible for the company and its producers to see the direct link between ‘welfare and quality’.
Andy Butterworth, andy.butterworth@bristol.ac.uk
 
Farmers´ Views on the Assessment System
 
 
The farmers’ juries took place in the Netherlands, Norway and Italy in the autumn of 2008. The main objective of the farmers juries is to understand farmers’ perceptions of the Welfare Quality® assessment system. It is important to determine how farmers perceive the tool, because they will be confronted with the system when applied and they will also be important users of the information.
Briefly summarized, we can conclude that farmers are concerned about animal welfare, because treating animals well is part of their professional ethic and pride. In general, the farmers’ definition of animal welfare is similar to the way it is defined in Welfare Quality® and measured in the Welfare Quality® assessment tool. They accept the relevance of the principles and criteria and in most cases agree with the measurements. We did find differences in the
 
          Meeting Farmers Jury
importance they attached to certain principles and criteria.
Farmers are concerned about the evaluation and scoring of farms and about the impact that incidental measurements may have on the overall farm score.
The results also clearly show that Dutch farmers are more concerned than farmers in Italy and Norway about how the assessment tool might be used in the public arena and how results might be used against them. For the Welfare Quality project it is clear that we need to provide sufficient and transparent information about the assessment and evaluation procedures, their objectivity and timing. Read more
Bettina Bock, Bettina.Bock@wur.nl, Paolo Ferrari, p.ferrari@crpa.it and Eivind Jacobsen, eivind.jacobsen@sifo.no 
 
Consumer, Retailers and Producers Concerns and Requirements
 
The Report “Improving farm animal welfare across Europe: current initiatives and venues for future strategies” gives an overview of the main results of research carried out among consumers, retailers and producers. It tries to offer a critical evaluation of the possible contribution of the Welfare Quality® assessment system to current European initiatives for improving the welfare of farm animals.
Researchers have carefully mapped concerns, initiatives and conditions for involvement among producers, processors, retailers, and consumers in seven European countries. The general picture is one of positive interest.
First of all, welfare initiatives are often associated with various types of quality assurance market schemes. All in all, the opportunities for people to take action through their consumption practices are limited in many ways, including few choices, inadequate information, and uncertainty about impacts on animal welfare.
The institutional as well as political and cultural environment is important for welfare initiatives. Three models are identified, which are linked to regulatory policies and the organization of supply chains:
»  the market model (especially in the UK and the Netherlands);
»  the welfare-state model (especially in Norway and Sweden); and
»  the terroir model (more in France and Italy).
These models have considerable influence on information communicated to end-consumers and on how consumers are expected and able to act.
We have learnt that the assessment system may be relevant for a range of purposes:
• To make various existing standards comparable and accountable.
• To implement ‘civic policies’ such as rural development plans.
• To clarify and concretize expectations about what to do, in association with European
   educational initiatives regarding welfare improvement on farms.
• With its systematic scientific backing, the system can be used for research purposes. Read more
Mara Miele,
mieleM@cardiff.ac.uk and Unni Kjærnes, unni.kjarnes@sifo.no
 
Reducing Aggression in Pigs through Selective Breeding
 
 
From increased injuries, social stress and reduced growth to increased risks of infection to the animal and damage to the carcass, aggressive behaviour in pigs can reduce both economic returns and animal welfare. Finding ways to diminish this behaviour will become even more important in 2013 when the European Union requires pregnant sows to be group housed.
Researchers in Welfare Quality® have found this aggressive behaviour, which arises when unfamiliar animals are mixed together, could be reduced by selective breeding to improve overall welfare.
Observing behaviour in pigs - whose levels of aggressiveness are individual - is time consuming and impractical. Therefore, Welfare Quality® researchers at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), who are also supported by the Scottish Government, developed a method that was more 
 
efficient and quicker for commercial breeders. Researchers monitored mixed groups of pigs, balanced for weight and the number of unfamiliar pigs, and monitored lesions on the skin caused by fighting after a 24 hour period. By doing so, researchers were able to determine more easily how much aggressive behaviour a pig had engaged in.
The researchers found that genetic selection to reduce aggression in pigs is feasible using lesion scores following mixing. In terms of activity, there were concerns that non-aggressive pigs might be generally inactive, yet that theory was not supported by the Welfare Quality® research.
Genetic selection can provide a way in which pig producers may be able to improve overall animal welfare and economic returns. Read more
Simon Turner, Simon.Turner@sac.ac.uk and Rick D´Eath, Rick.Death@sac.ac.uk 
 
Successful Workshop in Spain
 
Meeting in Zaragoza

The second dissemination activity in Spain was organised on 24 March 2009, during the first day of the International Animal Production Show held in Zaragoza. The inspiring and successful workshop was organised especially for Spanish farmer organisations, the meat industry, retailers, policy-makers and civil servants, as well as researchers.
The background, objectives and research programme of Welfare Quality® were presented, as well as two examples of the research results on ´Practical Strategies to Improve Welfare on Farm´. The Welfare Quality® assessment system on farm and at slaughter was carefully explained resulting in an inspired discussion about the four principles and 12 criteria of ´Good Farm Animal Welfare´.
Antonio Velarde described the research carried out to assess the validity, repeatability and feasibility of the selected measures. Subsequently, the Welfare Quality® assessment system developed for dairy and beef cattle, veal calves, sows, fattening pigs, laying hens and broilers was presented. The workshop finished with a fruitful discussion about the possible applications and implementation of the assessment system, with special emphasis on its implementation for advisory and certification purposes. The attendees found the assessment system a valid tool to assess welfare and they agreed with the need to use animal-based measures.
During the discussion, an issue was raised about labelling animal welfare-friendly products; it was questioned whether consumers would understand this kind of labelling. Another concern expressed that, considering the current global crisis, it might not be a good time to include added value to products (resulting in price increase). The organisers of the workshop were Antonio Velarde and Antoni Dalmau from IRTA and Xavier Manteca from UAB.
During the remainder of 2009, Welfare Quality® will be presented at several shows and fairs:
- Interfood in Sweden in May;
- Rieder Herbstmesse in Austria in September;
- EuroTier in Germany in September; and
- Sommet élevage in France in October.
These events are targeted at farmers and animal breeding organisations, the food industry, retailers, and all are open to the general public.
Antonio Velarde, antonio.velarde@irta.cat and Isabelle Veissier, veissier@clermont.inra.fr
 
Understanding Potential Futures
 
 
Scenario planning is a strategic management tool that organizations use to create a better understanding of potential ‘futures’. The focus is not on making precise predictions, but on better understanding future uncertainties in order to prepare. The more complex the issue, the more useful the method. We have focussed on the possible future of the assessment systems developed within Welfare Quality® .
Following standardised steps in scenario construction, two so-called forced scenarios were developed. One was forced to the extreme ‘all negative’ pattern of events and the other to the extreme ‘all positive’. When discussing these scenarios with stakeholders it became apparent that the negative future sounded rather plausible, but that the uncertainty regarding the implementation of the WQ system was attributable mainly to uncertainty about the management and control of the assessment systems. A second round of scenario development was therefore carried out that focussed on different roles that a potential future body surrounding the WQ assessment system could fulfil, rather than the environmental uncertainties that were the basis of the forced scenarios.
This set of so-called learning scenarios showed that not all events are completely beyond control and that things surrounding the WQ assessment system can be influenced.
 
We also learnt that a body which can support and manage the development of an assessment system appears to be necessary. Several potential roles of this body were identified and these were a supporting and management role, a scientific role, a level-setting role and a legitimizing role.
The most important lesson that can be drawn from the forced scenarios therefore is that a positive impact on animal welfare from the finalization of the WQ project cannot be taken for granted. Whether the project will eventually have a positive impact on animal welfare will depend on the outcome of a number of uncertainties, like who will pay for animal welfare monitoring schemes, and who will gain, what role the WTO will play, and whether a dominant leader will influence the course of events. But we have learnt how the future ‘could be’, given all its uncertainties and complexities and so this scenario development exercise has helped to identify strategic issues regarding the WQ assessment and information systems. 
Read more   
Linda Keeling,
Linda.keeling@hmh.slu.se 
Paul Ingenbleek, Paul.Ingenbleek@wur.nl 
Andy Butterworth, andy.butterworth@bristol.ac.uk  
and Harry Blokhuis, harry.blokhuis@hmh.slu.se
 
After Welfare Quality®
 

                Harry Blokhuis
On several occasions during the last months, I have been asked what will happen after Welfare Quality®. My standard answer is ‘I don’t know’ (predicting is quite easy, except when it concerns the future…). But of course I have hopes and expectations. These include:
•  I hope that Welfare Quality´s holistic approach can be preserved. We already covered the different domains of animal welfare and developed the same approach for different species. In this context, ‘holistic’ means that the approach can be applied to other species and that the assessment system is in principle applicable throughout the EU and beyond. It would be a large step backwards if different actors took an individual approach and, for instance, implemented only part of the welfare domains or altered the system for different species. That would devalue the system and thereby jeopardize international recognition, transparency and public acceptance.
•  Regarding implementation, I hope that committed leaders in the industry will encourage the uptake and implementation of assessment, information and improvement strategies in concert with other relevant stakeholders.
•  I also hope politicians and policy-makers will take responsibility for the establishment of a much needed organization/authority to maintain and update the Welfare Quality® outcomes and support their implementation.
•  When a Welfare Quality® type of system is implemented widely, it would result in large amounts of assessment data. I hope these can be stored in a common database to allow a unique insight into the status of animal welfare in Europe and, in combination with information on resource and management, to allow quantitative analyses of risks related to design and management factors.
•  The collaborative experience of all the partners in this project has reshaped the European research area in this field. I hope and expect this to be a lasting change, resulting in ongoing coordination and collaboration between partners of the Welfare Quality® consortium.
Harry Blokhuis, project coordinator, harry.blokhuis@hmh.slu.se

 
Colophon
Welfare Quality Update is the electronic newsletter of the Welfare Quality® project.
This project is a European research project focussing on the integration of animal welfare in the food quality chain: from public concern to improved welfare and transparent quality. The project aims to accommodate societal concerns and market demands, to develop reliable on-farm monitoring systems, product information systems, and practical species-specific strategies to improve animal welfare. Forty-four institutes and universities, representing thirteen European countries and four Latin American countries, participate in this integrated research project.
Welfare Quality has been co-financed by the European Commission, within the 6th Framework Programme,
contract No. FOOD-CT-2004-506508.

Project Coordinator Prof. Dr Ir Harry J. Blokhuis, The Netherlands, harry.blokhuis@hmh.slu.se
Project OfficeAnimal Sciences Group of Wageningen UR, Post box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands, phone: +31 320 293503, fax: +31 320 238050, e-mail info@welfarequality.net
Websitewww.welfarequality.net

The text of Welfare Quality Update represents the authors' views and does not necessarily represent a position of the European Commission who will not be liable for the use made of such information.
Subscribe for the newsletter: www.welfarequality.net , to unsubscribe: inform the project office: info@welfarequality.net