Free-range no guarantee of animal welfare

24/02/2012

Free-range hen farms are often touted as superior to those which keep their birds in cages and the eggs attract a premium price.

But the SPCA rightly points out that free-range is no guarantee of good welfare.

Recently a free-range layer hen farm in Martinborough was abandoned by the farmers. Many hens were left neglected, to fend for themselves. The SPCA wants to alert New Zealand consumers that term “free-range” is no guarantee of good animal welfare but simply a marketing term.

Robyn Kippenberger, National Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand SPCA, confirms there are no legal definitions of any farming methods in New Zealand so unless farms are audited and checked regularly against specified standards there will always be room for poor welfare.

“Don’t be tricked by clever and confusing labelling of products” says Ms Kippenberger

“Marketing terms “free-to-roam”, “free-range” or “free-farmed” are no guarantee of good animal welfare without independent auditing and a third party trusted certification mark. Poor farming practices can lead to neglect such as seen in the free range farm in Martinborough. Events like this bring the whole industry into question”

The SPCA National Blue Tick accreditation scheme offers a system of specific standards and auditing to farmers wishing to ensure consumer confidence in their animal welfare practices. The Blue Tick logo on eggs, pork and chicken identifies these products have been farmed to high SPCA welfare requirements. Independent auditors visit farms regularly and have contractual agreement to spot audit without notice.  Part of this transparent process makes the farming standards applied by farmers and auditors available for consumers to download from the Royal New Zealand SPCA website.  http://rnzspca.org.nz/bluetick/blue-tick-standards

Lots of terms used in marketing to differentiate produce and products which are supposedly kinder on stock or the environment are empty words which don’t necessarily mean anything.

They’re designed to sell by salving the consciences of gullible consumers but there is no guarantee that the farm practices and methods of production live up to the marketing message.


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