Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:57 pm on 13th February 2020.

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James West:

The question was about subsidies, and bars on subsidies. We support the use of subsidies for delivering the public goods that are in the Bill. Again, we would like that to be a requirement rather than a “may”. Essentially, public money should deliver genuinely higher standards of welfare; it should not be for meeting the regulatory baseline or going marginally beyond it. If you are looking at the top line, you might consider such things as allowing animals to express their natural behaviour, access to pasture for dairy cows, and the provision of enrichment materials for pigs. Obviously, depending on which species you look at, there will be different requirements, but broadly speaking, they will be lower stocking densities, slower-growing breeds, if we are talking about meat chickens, and access to pasture outdoors.

You might also look at things that would disqualify someone from receiving an animal welfare payment. One of the things that Compassion works on is ending the live export of animals. From our point of view, if you are involved in the live export trade, you should probably not receive the public subsidy for good animal welfare. In the area of mutilations, going back to pigs, you have enrichment. In Germany, they provide a premium for pigs at slaughter when the pig gets to the slaughterhouse with an intact tail, because that means that you have almost certainly run a very good system. The amount of space, enrichment and so on that you will have given the pigs during the rearing process will have been such that you will not have needed to tail-dock the pig, as you might in more intensive systems. We have fairly detailed documents with what may or may not qualify you for a subsidy, but broadly speaking it is natural behaviours and space.