The Animal Health and Welfare Strategy - summary
One of the main recommendations of the Policy Commission report on the Future of Farming and Food was that Defra should develop an animal health strategy as a framework to set out the aims, visions and priorities for animal health. The Government has accepted this recommendation and Defra is taking forward work to develop an Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain.
Our recent experience of foot and mouth disease highlights the scale of damage animal health can have on the rural economy and the need for the Strategy to be developed in close partnership with interest groups both within and outside the farmed livestock industry.
Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain
Our overriding vision is to reduce the economic, social and environmental impact of animal
diseases and improve the welfare of all animals kept by man. This task encompasses an
enormous range of complex and diverse issues, many of which have a fundamental impact on
individual members of the public as well as those who live and work as part of the wider
We need an Animal Health and Welfare Strategy which will provide clear direction for the
development of policies in this work area and provides a framework which will allow
Government and other stakeholders to agree priorities. Both BSE and foot and mouth have
underlined the need for a new approach to these issues. This framework will effect our ability
to identify and respond to the next "BSE".
The Strategy will be developed on a GB basis in partnership with the Scottish Executive and
the National Assembly for Wales and with links to the Northern Irish "island of Ireland"
Animal health related problems can have far reaching consequences. These include risks to
food safety and the potential impact of animal diseases on the livestock and food industries
and the rural and national economy. Recent epidemics have highlighted the losses which may
be caused by animal diseases, not only to the livestock industry but also to ancillary
industries, diversification enterprises and others, such as tourism. The restrictions imposed on
the countryside during the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, for example, had a serious impact
on tourism, a sector which has grown in significance both in terms of GDP and rural
employment. The outbreak also showed that movement restrictions and confinement can
severely damage the social structure and sense of community in affected areas, as people are
unable to go about their usual lives, and that this disruption can take a long time to repair.
High standards of animal welfare do already exist in GB. These standards are valued by the
public as an indication of a civilised approach to the animals we use to provide food, sport
and companionship. The elimination of cruelty and the delivery of higher welfare standards
will help deliver a picture of a responsible farming community and a countryside that people
want to visit.
Our aim is to be open and inclusive throughout the development of the Strategy, its delivery,
monitoring and review. We are still at an early stage, taking informal stakeholder views
before launching a formal consultation exercise on an outline strategy. The box below
outlines what we think a comprehensive and dynamic Strategy will look like.
Animal Health and Welfare Strategy
7Provide strategic direction and set priorities
7Be a strategy for Great Britain, which recognises the role of the Devolved
Administrations and will include the close involvement of Northern Ireland
7Be evidence based
7Define the responsibilities of Government and stakeholders
Rural Forum (4)15
7Strike a balance between:
-National policies and local initiative
-private and public veterinary services
-costs of disease prevention and eradication
7Recognise the impact of all regulations at farm level, and the potential for conflict
7Support sustainable development
7Recognise the environmental and rural impacts of animal health policies
7Build on best practice
7Take a holistic approach to the promotion of animal health and prevention of
7Integrate the protection of public health with animal welfare, disease prevention
and disease control
7Strengthen links between the Government, the State Veterinary Service, private
veterinary practices, and the farmer
7Show how veterinary advice and promotion of animal health support
7Improve communication and education on welfare and animal disease on farm
and throughout the food chain
7Recognise the important role that research, scientific or other expert advice plays
in animal health and welfare
7Develop Defra’s new responsibilities for the welfare of companion, recreational
and sport animals
Informal "blank sheet of paper" meetings with stakeholders have been held on the scope and
role of an Animal Health and Welfare Strategy. Despite the wide range of interests common
themes have emerged from these discussions which will be used to develop a "skeleton" of
what the Strategy should cover. We will be issuing the skeleton for public consultation in
November. Responses and comments to this exercise will shape the Strategy due to be
published in Spring 2003. The development of a delivery plan will follow. This will be
developed in an open and inclusive way in close co-ordination with delivery partners and
You can help us ensure that this process will make a real difference to the way in which we
conduct the ‘business’ of improving animal health and welfare. What would you like to see
contained in an Animal Health and Welfare Strategy? You may well have felt the impact of
animal health and welfare policies in recent years – what do we need to do differently? What
do we need to do better?
If you have ideas, concerns, reservations or questions, please let us know. Contact the
Animal Health and Welfare Strategy Team:
By email firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Linskey 020 7904 6367 Oladipo Olasoju 020 7904 6126
Paul Dray 020 7904 6081 Tit Oguntunde 020 7904 6148
Georgina Brown 020 7904 6713 By fax 020 7904 6128
More information is available on our website on the Defra main site atwww.defra.gov.uk.Rural Forum (4)15
Some of the issues and themes from responses to the written consultation "Working
Together" and initial stakeholder meetings:
7Need for a framework to set out the aims and vision for animal health and a mechanism
for determining the priorities.
7Developed and implemented by a partnership between Government and the farmer and
7Recognise and promote the contribution animal husbandry can make to disease
prevention and welfare problems.
7Review the way in which animals are moved and marketed.
7Focus on certain endemic diseases rather than (or as well as) Zoonoses and Exotic
7Scope mainly limited to farmed livestock, but need to consider other Defra
7Relationship between the private veterinary surgeon and the livestock owner, including
role in education.
7Increasing Vet presence on farms.
7Contribution of Vets to surveillance and an improvement to our current system.
7Good understanding of the disease situation throughout the country.
7Better understanding of the wider international disease situation and the threat that this
poses to the domestic livestock industries.
7Impact of disease control policy on the environment and the wider rural economy.
7Need for more training and information for livestock farmers.
7Developing farming practises and animal breeds that are more resistant to disease.
7Policy should be based on agreed science and should be cost effective.
7Address the size and resourcing of the State Veterinary Service.
7Economic benefits of biosecurity must be clearly explained to livestock keepers.
7Role of assurance schemes.
7Whole farm audit (and the need for a herd health plan) linked to some form of farm
7Strengthen horizontal communications and have consistent aims.
7Identify delivery partners and their role as regulators and advisers.
7Role of compensation as a disincentive to the adoption of biosecurity measures.
7Enforcement tool kit to indicate what action to take and when.
7Opportunity to look at causes of animal diseases and their spread.
7Need to use integrated policy appraisal tools.
7Need buy-in from the wider community and to consider what impact the strategy will
have on the average member of the public.
7Diversity of the workforce makes it difficult to reach – increasing number of part-time,
seasonal farmers, single worker and an ageing sector.
7Diversity of activities and species on farms for tourism, food production, crafts etc which
need a different range of skills and less time to manage animals.
7The role of the economic climate on animal health and welfare and the spread of diseases.
7Not just a reaction to the FMD crisis and to recognise that re-developing behaviour that
used to exist is an enormous task.
7Importance of public health issues and the need to treat farmers as food producers.