Winning strategies for responsible farm animal care

OTTAWA, Oct. 20, 2011 /CNW/ -  The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) is on the right track to help build consumer trust and to promote continuous improvement for farm animal care. This message was reinforced several times by presenters at NFACC’s conference, October 5th and 6th. Bringing a broad spectrum of groups together at one table to share information and collaborate to advance farm animal care and welfare is proving to be a winning strategy.

David Smith, national VP of retail strategy and sustainability with Sobey’s Inc. focused on the need for collaborative solutions. “The days of producer-defined standards are gone. It has to be a multi-stakeholder process,” says Smith. NFACC has all the right players around the table. “Without those people involved in the process, retailers would have had trouble getting involved,” said Smith.

“The strength of the NFACC approach is to decide what is acceptable. We need a clear statement of community standards,” noted conference speaker Jeff Rushen,a member of the academic community and research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. “The NFACC process has done a lot in bringing together the different stakeholders to hammer out the community standards we have about animal welfare. That’s why it’s important that the animal welfare assessments we do in Canada are based on the Codes of Practice. They are the best estimate of what the community as a whole feels is acceptable.”

Catherine Scovil, associate executive director of the Canadian Pork Council agreed, “We have an opportunity to do this right and in the process maintain and re-gain public confidence in the farming community.”

“We are very much supporters of what NFACC is doing. It is a unique approach that we’re taking in Canada,” said Scovil. “In addition to the Code process, we are also supporters of developing a national approach to welfare assessment tools, creating a solid foundation that is transparent and consistent across commodities and enhances credibility.”

Kathleen Plowman, general manager policy, Australian Pork Limited shared Australia’s Code development process and recent market changes that resulted in an industry decision to move to gestation stall free production.

“We had a very progressive Model code – one that my producers were very, very proud of,” said Plowman. The code brought great advancements in animal welfare – with many pork producers surpassing the recommended requirements – but there is mounting political and social pressure for further change. Plowman said, “Where you [Canada] are right now reminds me of where we [Australia] were about 5 years ago.”

Since that time, animal welfare and animal rights groups have launched sophisticated campaigns. Even so, Plowman points to lessons learned.  “Tearing down the animal rights/animal welfare groups doesn’t help the cause,” she said. Instead, she aims to work with the groups who are voicing concern. “Because at the end of the day, we do have a common interest – the welfare of our animals.”

Susie Miller, director general, sector development and analysis directorate with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada praised Canada’s Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals as a means to effectively respond to and alleviate public concerns. In her opinion clear, consistent and science-based national standards that are driven and supported by industry are critical for Canada to lead and be successful in animal welfare. She noted that government believes that NFACC could be the primary credible communicator on animal welfare to the public.

More information on the conference, including complete speaker presentations, is available at


For more information contact:

Jackie Wepruk
NFACC General Manager

Funding for the Codes of Practice is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agricultural Flexibility Fund (Addressing Domestic and International Market Expectations Relative to Farm Animal Welfare), as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.