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

The Vision

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

livestock industry.

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"


Potential Impact

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.

The Approach

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

It will:

7 Provide strategic direction and set priorities

7 Be a strategy for Great Britain, which recognises the role of the Devolved

Administrations and will include the close involvement of Northern Ireland

7 Be evidence based

7 Define the responsibilities of Government and stakeholders


Rural Forum (4)15

7 Strike a balance between:

-National policies and local initiative

-private and public veterinary services

-costs of disease prevention and eradication

7 Recognise the impact of all regulations at farm level, and the potential for conflict

between them

7 Support sustainable development

7 Recognise the environmental and rural impacts of animal health policies

7 Build on best practice

7 Take a holistic approach to the promotion of animal health and prevention of


7 Integrate the protection of public health with animal welfare, disease prevention

and disease control

7 Strengthen links between the Government, the State Veterinary Service, private

veterinary practices, and the farmer

7 Show how veterinary advice and promotion of animal health support


7 Improve communication and education on welfare and animal disease on farm

and throughout the food chain

7 Recognise the important role that research, scientific or other expert advice plays

in animal health and welfare

7 Develop Defra’s new responsibilities for the welfare of companion, recreational

and sport animals

Where Next

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 at

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 at Forum (4)15

Emerging themes

Some of the issues and themes from responses to the written consultation "Working

Together" and initial stakeholder meetings:

7 Need for a framework to set out the aims and vision for animal health and a mechanism

for determining the priorities.

7 Developed and implemented by a partnership between Government and the farmer and

other stakeholders.

7 Recognise and promote the contribution animal husbandry can make to disease

prevention and welfare problems.

7 Review the way in which animals are moved and marketed.

7 Focus on certain endemic diseases rather than (or as well as) Zoonoses and Exotic


7 Scope mainly limited to farmed livestock, but need to consider other Defra


7 Relationship between the private veterinary surgeon and the livestock owner, including

role in education.

7 Increasing Vet presence on farms.

7 Contribution of Vets to surveillance and an improvement to our current system.

7 Good understanding of the disease situation throughout the country.

7 Better understanding of the wider international disease situation and the threat that this

poses to the domestic livestock industries.

7 Impact of disease control policy on the environment and the wider rural economy.

7 Need for more training and information for livestock farmers.

7 Developing farming practises and animal breeds that are more resistant to disease.

7 Policy should be based on agreed science and should be cost effective.

7 Address the size and resourcing of the State Veterinary Service.

7 Economic benefits of biosecurity must be clearly explained to livestock keepers.

7 Role of assurance schemes.

7 Whole farm audit (and the need for a herd health plan) linked to some form of farm


7 Strengthen horizontal communications and have consistent aims.

7 Identify delivery partners and their role as regulators and advisers.

7 Role of compensation as a disincentive to the adoption of biosecurity measures.

7 Enforcement tool kit to indicate what action to take and when.

7 Opportunity to look at causes of animal diseases and their spread.

7 Need to use integrated policy appraisal tools.

7 Need buy-in from the wider community and to consider what impact the strategy will

have on the average member of the public.

7 Diversity of the workforce makes it difficult to reach – increasing number of part-time,

seasonal farmers, single worker and an ageing sector.

7 Diversity 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.

7 The role of the economic climate on animal health and welfare and the spread of diseases.

7 Not just a reaction to the FMD crisis and to recognise that re-developing behaviour that

used to exist is an enormous task.

7 Importance of public health issues and the need to treat farmers as food producers.