Back to website

From DEFRA pdf file


Minutes of the 1st meeting held on 6 July 2005 at 1 Millbank, London SW1P 3JZ

Members present:

Helen Browning (Chairman) Tim Brigstocke Richard Bennett Neil Cutler Nigel Durnford Stewart Houston Peter Jinman Diane McCrea Martin Potter Dick Sibley Bill Swann Sarah Wolfensohn
Assessor: David Dawson (Defra) Secretariat: Jill Butt Brenda Rawson Tansy Dunham
Also in attendance: Diana Linskey

(Defra Landscape Paper, DP1)

Agenda item 1: Apologies and Chairman’s introduction and welcome

1. Apologies from Chris Brown whose appointment to the Group was confirmed too late for him to attend the meeting.

2. The Chairman outlined that this first meeting was to be about looking at the big picture and exploring the nature of the challenge ahead and how best to drive the strategy forward.

3. Introductions were invited from EIG Members, the Defra team and invitees.

4. The Chairman said that she wanted the public to have a first hand understanding of the working of the Group and that she was delighted so many were attending. It was not an opportunity for a Q&A session but where appropriate any contributions would be welcome but points would not necessarily be discussed at the meeting. She invited all the stakeholders present at the meeting to get involved in exploring ways of working and in the work of the Group going forward.

Agenda item 2: Background to the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy and Defra Landscape Paper

5. Diana Linskey (DL) introduced this item and explained that this was a scene setting paper to inform about the background to the strategy. DL spoke of the landscape of animal health and welfare and the vision of where we want to be in 2014. She indicated that it was not a case of starting from scratch; within the strategy were a whole range of individual programmes, many of which are already in progress. DL went on to explain that the strategy contained some challenging messages for animal owners. She highlighted the need for all sectors of the industry to accept change with the veterinary profession leading the way. She indicated that it was a strategy for all sectors, which if it is to be successful, will require working in partnership across the industry. DL went on to set out the rationale highlighting protection of public health as the most important issue.

6. The presentation illustrated some of the successes of partnership working within the strategy by reference to Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA), British Pig Executive (BPEX) and Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS). She explained that Defra continues to seek out and work with others in partnership. One key area where partnership working is developing well is Farm Health Planning (FHP) where pump priming of £6m is available for the industry to take forward the prioritising and relevance of the benefits and costs of FHP. On completion of the presentation which can be seen at Annex 1, questions were initiated from the Group.

7. Martin Potter (MP) asked about the decision to make the State Veterinary Service (SVS) an agency and whether this was a move to cut manpower or justify costs. David Dawson (DD) responded that there had been a need within Defra to clarify roles and responsibilities within policy and delivery areas which had previously tended to be blurred and to question how these best interlocked. The change has highlighted the need for: better working relationships between farmers, vets and the SVS; better prioritisation within the SVS and, a strong contractual agreement underpinning the relationship.

The funding of the SVS has already created greater efficiencies although it has exposed issues within the IT infrastructure.

8. Dick Sibley (DS) asked why Defra was concentrating on notifiable diseases and why the Government is spending £24m on Scrapie which is of little consequence in the overall picture. His immediate thoughts were of mastitis and lameness which are having a major impact on farm costs and need to be addressed. He also asked for assurance that the veterinary surveillance group is moving forward and spoke of a paucity of credible data on disease.

9. Bill Swann (BS) felt that much data was available on farmed animals though not necessarily captured or used effectively, but on the companion animal side none existed to his knowledge. This omission needs to be addressed urgently and he wondered what Defra was doing. The EIG will need to ascertain what is available.

10. DL agreed that this was a valid point and that gaps existed and needed to be identified. She spoke of the requirement for indicators on mastitis and of the need to set targets. She identified this area as one that was increasingly looking for partners.

11. The pig industry was described by Stewart Houston (SH) as a good example of partnership working and he touched briefly on the recently launched abattoir surveillance scheme, funded by grants from Defra but run by vets and abattoirs working in partnership with farmers and their own vets.

Under the scheme extra surveillance data from abattoirs is being fed back to pig producers and vets and will be beneficial in bringing to the fore underlying disease risks.

12. Neil Cutler (NC) reaffirmed his belief that partnership is at the root of all future progress but felt there was not enough of a partnership element in some strands of the strategy and that perhaps this should be an area to which the EIG gives priority.

13. Moving on to TB, the Chairman highlighted that the EIG will have an overarching responsibility to monitor activity in this area as in all other areas of health and welfare and to challenge where appropriate. However, she noted that a similar body to the EIG is to be established for TB under Nolan, although this may not be achieved until December. It was suggested that the EIG should challenge the delay in getting this new Group established. She did not feel that the TB group would prevent the EIG taking a strategic interest in TB. Members of the Group however expressed their concern around the existence of two groups and the possible confusion amongst the public:  clarity of roles would be critical. The Chairman agreed and stated that the EIG must ensure that activity on TB is progressing satisfactorily. DD concurred and said that getting the right action on TB is critical and a close working relationship is essential to ensuring the TB initiatives are working.

 Peter Jinman (PJ) explained that there is an interim steering group working in the background until the formal Group is established. All agreed that TB will impact on how the strategy is perceived to be delivering.

14. NC raised related concerns within the industry on the new compensation scheme under which TB animals will be paid against a table valuation.

Despite the industry making detailed comments to the Government on this issue it felt it had largely been ignored. This may impact on the buy-in to the strategy and if it did, it would not encourage partnership working.

15. At this point the Chairman asked for views on DL’s presentation on the current landscape from the stakeholders present. These ranged as follows:

since most expensive disease risk was generally imported into the country why was there not more emphasis on biosecurity and imports?

there needs to be a better understanding of what is meant by partnership. How does taking responsibility and delivery fit with partnership?

TB is a deterrent to partnership working particularly in the farm health planning arena, how can we get cooperation?

must not overlook sectors outside of the EIG’s direct knowledge;

who will own any data collected under a partnership agreement?

DD said this was a real problem to which there is no easy answer.

Problems around the Data Protection Act are being looked at currently.

However he noted that when data is collected by Government it is invariably seen as an imposition on the industry rather than as a benefit and often this resulted in the data not being as accurate as it could be.

He cited the livestock register as an example; and,

the EIG has to consider the impact of the changing use of the countryside leading to the increase in hobby farming and farming of animals such as pot bellied pigs and camelids.

Agenda item 3: Driving Forces

16. The Chairman introduced this topic explaining that there had been a group discussion at the EIG’s induction day on the main driving forces in animal health & welfare operating at present and likely to do so in the future.

Around the walls were flip charts illustrating the outcome of that discussion.

She asked the audience to contribute to the debate and during the break to indicate on the flipcharts which forces they felt were most important, andsecondly, where the greatest degree of uncertainty lay.

17. A stakeholder felt that animal health seemed to be undervalued. Often the intrinsic value of health is overlooked as it is not seen as a priority and in reality it should be a driving force in its own right.

Another stakeholder maintained that welfare should be intrinsic and that good health does not necessarily lead to good welfare but that the reverse does apply and not necessarily at extra cost.

Another was of the view that consumers may not yet understand animal welfare. The view was that health was a market/ economic force whereas welfare was less so.

 A lively debate followed on the difference between health and welfare and which came first in priority, but with no definitive outcome. The need for a clear baseline was recognised with understandable definitions of welfare and health being crucial.

 It was agreed that this issue should be debated further and resolved at the next meeting.

Action: Discussions/resolution at next meeting

18. Others agreed and spoke of the decline in the knowledge held by farmers and noted that with the working population ageing this will be exacerbated.

Also with few vets going on farms due to high costs, farmers are not learning from each other. PJ interceded and stated that education will become a driver as this is the only way to teach future generations about animals in society.

One stakeholder cited the recent Skipton Sheep Fair where only 6 attendees were thought to be under 50. The danger of this decline in expertise and the lack of new blood coming into the industry is that farms will become larger and more intense leading to higher disease ratios.

PJ affirmed the vast potential for disease transfer due to the changes in the use of the countryside with a significant amount of land being sold off to enlarge holdings.

19. Discussion of driving forces highlighted the following views:

that economics is the true driver ie profit;

whether the consumer really understands ‘welfare’ as a separate concept to ‘health’;

that there is much uncertainty around the political will, public perception, impact of climatic change, consumerism, CAP reform and WTO; and,

bioterrorism was considered as a driver which had not been identified by the EIG.

Agenda Item 4: How can we make difference and have impact?

20. In a world that is fast flowing and where activity is non-stop, how can the EIG make a difference and bring about change?

The Chairman invited an open discussion.

21. Members queried whether there is a clear definition of the Group’s role, responsibilities and accountability?  

For example it was asked if the EIG could fund research itself where no funding is available to individual sectors?

The Group recognised the need to develop the confidence of producers generally and in turn win their trust.

 In broader terms the EIG needs clarity about where exactly it sits in the overall animal world and what authority it has.

Concern was expressed that the EIG was not more strongly focussed on reducing animal disease. It was considered that the Group’s role should be to drive process without losing sight of what it is accountable for.

22 Members agreed that the EIG must keep asking; “Is this making a difference?” and, “Is it sustainable?” But in order to do this data must be made available and in turn measures must be developed so that the difference the EIG makes can be evaluated and outcomes captured.

23. NC agreed but felt that the EIG needs to be able to highlight in 5 years’ time those sectors that are failing to implement the strategy and also to win buy-in from down the food chain. He was concerned about whether the EIG would be listened to when it challenged, and how it would hold others to account.

24. Surveillance was raised as the topic that the EIG had to address. Without sound knowledge in this area it would not be easy to prioritise. In the absence of detailed surveillance how would the Group be able to determine what is happening in the field?

 The need for a clear baseline was agreed. It was felt that abattoirs are in a good position to feed back information on the health of animals to owners but this is simply not happening except to some degree within the pig industry.

Members cited The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) as both having a role to play here.

Action: EIG to review surveillance/ monitoring at September meeting

25. DD explained that the Group is tasked with advising and challenging both Government and the industry where it feels the strategy is not delivering.

 It needs to work with all sectors to make the strategy a reality but he cautioned against the EIG taking on objectives such as reducing animal disease in England; this was simply not realistic, it must look at disease risk and consumers’ understanding of animal health and welfare.

 In relation to indicators, he explained that work was being done within Defra but was still ongoing.

Action: Draft indicator paper to be circulated to Members

26. Recognising NC’s earlier point DD agreed that the EIG will certainly have a role to play in probing any failing areas. DD hoped that in 5 years’ time the EIG would have brought about improvement in at least the following areas:



risk management;

clarity over when Government intervention is appropriate outside of any partnership; and,

information flow.


27. In response to the earlier question regarding research DD stated that the EIG would not be in a position to fund research but it could highlight the need for research in certain areas.

28. Debate followed next on how the EIG could best get regional and local involvement whilst recognising that some Government Offices do not have animal health & welfare plans. The EIG would have a role in identifying failings at a local level as well as centrally. Greater cooperation locally would hopefully help to underpin the proposed cultural change towards working in partnership.

 The SVS would have a key role in initiating greater buy-in by farmers and the veterinary profession. One of the benefits of this closer working would be a reduction in the potential spread of disease.

29. Questions were asked about how the SVS measures the Welfare Code and what standards are being applied across the country. It was noted that awareness of issues tends to stem from prosecutions rather than from specific data.

Members questioned how welfare data is being captured by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) as none is being made available to animal organisations.

Likewise it was asked if the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) prioritises issues and if so on what basis.

BS addressed this and spoke of the tendency for farm animals to become part of a lifestyle and although these have not previously been recognised as companion animals, this is an area which has particularly been acknowledged by animal sanctuaries. There is now a general awareness and discussion is ongoing between the RSPCA and CAWC.

30. Best practice around the country and abroad needs to be captured and disseminated. If these are tabled they can then be communicated more widely but not before it has been ascertained which practices work best under what circumstances. There are some excellent examples abroad, for example, Holland where disease is being handled from the ground upwards rather than through contracts imposed by Government.

31. Rather than try to engage the veterinary profession as a whole, PJ suggested working with groups such as the species specific veterinary groups; perhaps inviting them to give presentations.

Agenda Items 5: Identifying Priorities

32. Identifying the priorities is seen as a big challenge. Bringing about change requires a cultural shift and until now Defra has tried to set the agenda.

The EIG can make a difference but only in partnership. It will need to work with the industry and Government.

33. In the discussion that followed a range of questions and thoughts were raised:

public opinion: to what extend does this determine our priorities, how do we reconcile the different assessments of priorities that may occur between public opinion, the industry and the EIG?

Interaction with the media: media could be a powerful ally as public concern and interest is largely media driven.

There is immense public concern in certain areas although often there is an absence of evidence for these concerns;

keeping abreast of the Welsh/Scottish activities. The Chairman is meeting with the CVOs from the Devolved Administrations;

awareness of levy boards: the Government and Devolved Administrations have announced an independent cross cutting review  of the main GB and UK statutory agriculture levy bodies;

Farm Health Planning: the FHP Group is making good progress, for example, it is working on developing buy-in to health which will improve welfare.

the balance between quality of life for companion animals and that of their owners:     demands of animal welfare could impact on welfare of humans;

surveillance and the supporting IT infrastructure to bring together information from other initiatives and strategies;

impact of EU, Office Internationale De Epizooties (OIE), World Trade Organisation (WTO), need to encourage greater coordination between these bodies;

lack of infrastructure for example too few abattoirs resulting in long distance travel and the implication for welfare, and potential breaches of the Animal Movements Licensing System (AMLS);

contribution to be made by the private/commercial sector;

environmental issues and their impact on animal health & welfare;

CAP reform and Pillar 2: the impact on farming industry;

how to reach the consumer;

need for farmer and owner end advice – no outreach/extension services now; and,

partnership link – source of ‘trend’ data.

34. There was consensus amongst Members and stakeholders around the need for the EIG to engage in two way communication with communities otherwise the Group’s credibility will be limited.

Communicating the right message in the right way to the right person and avoid the impression of ‘command and control’ is the aim.

Gaps in the Strategy

35. The following gaps were noted in the strategy:

as previously mentioned there is a need to recognise that the smallholder sector is developing and that this can result in poor welfare if owners are insufficiently knowledgeable.

This creates a significant potential for disease if inadequate information is held (or known about) by the keepers. This is seen as a difficult sector and a vulnerable one because of adverse reactions to any downturn in income;

exotic species: ownership in this area is growing without the necessary information and expertise being available;

lack of a baseline against which to measure progress;

farming systems: there is a need to keep more abreast of developments with the leaning towards bigger herds and the related spread of disease;

game birds: there has been a huge increase in numbers but no surveillance of where these populations are or their movements;

camelids: another area of growth and one with a high profile, also vulnerable to TB;

lack of data: for example there is no census on numbers of sheep, no one knows how many there are; and,

costs: there is no clear understanding of these at each level of the industry but particularly on farms themselves where farmers simply have never analysed their production costs and they may invest in high tech equipment eg milking equipment, which may have a detrimental effect on health and welfare of animals and farmers may fail to cost out the downside.

36. The Chairman reiterated that there is such a wide range of activities open to scrutiny that the EIG would need to concentrate on those where it could make a difference and not to try and overstretch itself.

37. In turn gaps in the Group’s own collective knowledge were identified as


fish farming;




pharmaceutical; and,

extensive livestock production.


38. It was agreed that awareness of the work of other Government departments such as the FSA will be crucial.

39. The EIG will need to focus on organisations initially rather than individuals. It should adopt a risk based approach, for example, those outside of the general farmer circles for example companion animals are liable to be more problematic. It will need to get to grass root levels, recognise the political agenda and above all get the veterinary profession on board. In relation to the latter, most felt the species vets should be particularly encouraged.

Agenda Item 6: Discussion of Ways of Working

40. The Chairman introduced this item by asking Members for their views on how the EIG will function. She outlined its role as being to give advice to Ministers and the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) to ensure complete coverage of the field. During the discussion that followed horizon scanning to foresee problems was proposed as another role for the EIG. Emphasis was on developing working in partnership, best practice and giving stakeholder’s responsibility.

41. The EIG will meet in public each time with meetings normally starting at 10:30 and finishing about 16:00. It is hoped that, budget permitting, alternate meetings will generally be held in the regions.

A web site is being developed.

42. The Chairman raised the fact that the Terms of Reference are still draft and invited Members to comment. DD said any major amendments would need to go back to the Minister. Terms of Reference are to be agreed at the next meeting but comments should be forwarded before then if possible.

43. The EIG will be following developments on the GB conference currently being organised jointly by the Devolved Administrations and Defra.

44. Any comments received by the public will be circulated amongst Members.

45. The September agenda will be circulated to Members for comment as soon as possible.

Agenda Item 7: AOB

46. No matters were raised under this item.

Next Meeting: 20 September 2005 at 10.30am at the Mary Sumner House,

24 Tufton Street, London SW1 3RB

Contact: Secretariat – 020 7904 6931


Annex 1

Presentation by Diana Linskey - Background to the Animal Health and  Welfare Strategy for Great Britain (4.7 MB – Warning: this is a very large  file).


(warmwell note.  You can read it as HTML 9180 bytes here.)