The government has revealed it is planning to scrap a range of statutory animal welfare codes.
In a change that has already caused concern with animal welfare groups, the government has drawn up a draft order to remove the official code on farming chickens.
Environment secretary Liz Truss will be leading the move to get rid of current guidelines and make the animal agriculture industry self-regulating, The Guardian reports.
And under plans by Conservative ministers, more power will be given to the British Poultry Council to regulate chicken farming. This means, from April 27, the poultry industry will be in charge of writing and upholding its own welfare codes.
The RSPCA has said it has been voicing concerns for the past three years about the ‘downgrading’ of guidelines, and has criticised the lack of transparency around the process. And they now have concerns that the new guidance documents will only serve to ensure that animal keepers are ‘compliant with minimum legal requirements.’
Kerry McCarthy, the shadow environment secretary, told The Guardian:
Abandoning codes of practice for farm animal welfare is not in the best interests of the animals and will not produce higher quality food.
In the wake of food scandals from horsemeat to campylobacter, scrapping government standards risks undermining public confidence in the food we buy.
Although legislation that criminalises the mistreatment of animals will not be changed, the codes that will be scrapped are vital tools used by the courts to gauge the severity of abuse cases. Meaning, if a farm abuses its chickens in the future, it will not be the RSPCA or the Food Standards Agency that will take action, it will be left to the industry itself.
And in the wake of distressing undercover footage showing the mistreatment of chicks, this move by the government is clearly not in the best interest of animals.