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The 2019 report on animal welfare in the food industry is presented in Spain

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) is the main benchmark for animal welfare policies in food companies. Spanish companies continue to have little presence in it.

Factory farm of lifetime-caged laying hens. Photo: Equalia 

Guillermo Moreno, Director of Equalia

August 04 2020

It’s the most important annual comparative report on an international level. It is supported by the Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection organizations. It celebrated its 8th anniversary in 2019 and in this occasion, the standard for animal welfare of 150 food companies in 24 countries are evaluated. 

 

The report provides investors, companies, consumers and other stakeholders with a better understanding of corporate practices in animal welfare. Its objective is to drive progress in corporate standards, highlighting those that achieve the most and those that need to improve their policies. 

 

The companies adhere to the evaluation willingly. In 2019, the report registered 63 produces, 52 distributors and 35 restaurant and bar chains. The evaluation method is done through a 6 level ranking: 

 

Level 1. Leadership.

Level 2. Animal welfare integrated into corporate strategies.

Level 3. Stablished, but still some work to be done

Level 4. Moving forward towards integration

Level 5. On the business agenda, but evidence of limited implementation. 

Level 6. No evidence on business agenda.

British companies continue to lead the ranking. 4 of the 6 companies that obtained level 1 are Waitrose, Cranswick, M&S and Noble Foods. Also, 9 of the 16 spots in Level 2 are British.

 

60% of the leading companies have formalized their animal welfare management through policies and processes in their supply chain.

 

2019 has been the year in which companies have achieved the most progress since the first report in 2012. Out of the 150 companies that were analyzed, 30 of them rose at least one level.

 

Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming, says: "Over the past eight years, the report has been instrumental in encouraging companies to adopt new animal welfare policies. The responsibility now lies with those that have demonstrated a strong commitment to implementing these policies, for example, ensuring that cage-free systems are fit for purpose and are implemented in a timely manner."

There is still a lot of work to be done for proper animal welfare management in the food industry

51% of the evaluated companies provide their clients with information on animal welfare. 40% out of the 150 companies still appear on both levels, indicating they provide little to no information on their animal welfare standards, In fact, 25% don' even make their standards public. 

 

As you can see, progress is still too slow. There is still a lot of work to be done for proper animal welfare management in the food industry.

 

As for Spain, Mercadona, positioned at level 5 (animal welfare on the business agenda, but limited evidence of implementation), represents the only participation in 2019. The large Spanish supermarket chain has been participating in the assessment since 2014. It has always been positioned at level 5, except in 2012 and 2016 when it dropped to last position. 


El Corte Inglés took part from 2012 to 2017, scoring every year at level 6 (no evidence of animal welfare on the business agenda).

In the egg production sector there is an intention of abandoning the cages

Animal welfare in the Spanish food industry: the cage free movement in Spain

 

The beginning of the free cage movement took place in 2017, led by the Igualdad Animal Foundation. In that year, important actors in the distribution sector committed themselves to stop selling eggs from caged hens, with a 2025 deadline. The distribution sector was joined by the production sector, although to a lesser extent.


It is the case of big supermarkets like Carrefour, Mercadona, Lidl, Aldi, Eroski, Alcampo or El Corte Inglés; also of companies like Condis or Ahorra Más, which no longer offer code 3 eggs in their stores.

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In the production sector, we find the case of Huevos Guillén, Mercadona's supplier and the largest Spanish egg producer, which has made a commitment to 100% cage-free production by 2025. Others, like Rujamar, have already completed the conversion of their farms to alternative systems. After implementing this measure, Rujamar has become the leader in alternative production in Spain with an 18% share, taking 330,000 hens out of the cages. 

 

In the egg production sector there is an intention of abandoning the cages, in fact, most of the companies with higher turnover and sales volume are in a conversion period on their farms. However, transition is much slower than expected compared to other countries, with a total census of 77% of laying hens still housed in cages.

Through the Cage-free Eggs Initiative, Equalia collaborates with companies and institutions to achieve commitments which ease the transition to cage-free laying hens system, according to the newest findings on animal science, as well as meeting the modern consumer demands.

Rearing laying hens system using enriched cages. Photo: Shutterstock

Mandatory surveillance cameras in slaughterhouses

During the last year, Equalia has worked, together with various stakeholders, on a proposal to install surveillance cameras in slaughterhouses. We have taken the initiative to the business network with good results. Leading producers in their sector, such as El Pozo Alimentación, have already shown interest. For its part, Carrefour Spain has already implemented our proposal in its own brand and Quality and Origin suppliers, who already have closed-circuit television in their facilities. 

 

This proposal has the support of significant stakeholders such as trade unions, veterinarians, nonprofits, the meat industry and consumer associations.


As far as political outreach is concerned, we have presented a proposal of law to different groups of the parliamentary arch that is already being debated in 13 autonomous communities. This proposal has given way to a first non-binding proposal, which has been approved in the parliaments of Navarra, La Rioja, Baleares and Madrid.

Guillermo Moreno, Director of Equalia, attending the press conference prior to the registration of the NLP in the Assembly of Madrid. Photo: Equalia.

Voluntary labelling in the alternative system for laying hens

The farmed animals advocate group ANDA, supported by AVIALTER (Professional Association of Alternative Poultry Farming), developed and presented in 2018 a pioneering label in Spain to attest the free-range and organic egg. The aim is to provide consumers with information on labelling and to promote the sale of a more sustainable product, with higher standards of animal welfare. 

 

This proposal includes the use of enrichment elements for hens. In this case, a bush cover in the external access area, a vegetal substrate that implies a substantial improvement in the biodiversity of the environment and a greater landscape integration.


Finally, the initiative aims to help fix the rural population by recognising the work of small and medium sized productions of code 0 and 1 systems.

The poultry sector has to adapt to the current demand, which seeks higher quality and better animal welfare standards

European Chicken Commitment

Equalia has presented in Spain the European Chicken Commitment (ECC) initiative. An international campaign by a coalition of 70 animal protection organisations. In it, we ask to improve the standards of animal welfare in the broiler sector through a series of measures validated by a scientific committee. This change is already taking place and it is important that all stakeholders are involved

 

The poultry sector has to adapt to the current demand, which seeks higher quality and better animal welfare standards. This development was already pointed out in the conclusions of the 2016 report from the Commission to the European Parliament. The report links the serious health problems of these birds with the genetic selection that the chicken sector has been practising for decades to produce fast-growing breeds.

 

In the words of Equalia spokesperson Maria Villaluenga: "The fast growing chicken is the new code 3 egg. Consumers have already expressed their rejection of eggs from caged chickens and are now demanding more natural growing chickens".

Chicken farm with 37 days in the province of Toledo. Photo: Equalia.

Towards the end of cages in European livestock farming

 

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) is leading a European Citizens' Initiative called End the Cage Age, through a network of 170 NGOs across Europe. This initiative calls for a conversion of farming to cage-free systems. It targets the poultry, rabbit, pig and beef sectors. 

 

The first requirement to be able to use this European legislative mechanism is to collect at least one million signatures. The initiative went well beyond the cut-off, reaching one and a half million signatures (100,000 were collected in Spain). In addition, CIWF is working in Spain to assist the egg sector in its conversion to cage-free systems.

The transformation towards a sustainable food system requires an integrated vision where the central element is sustainability

Food system in times of COVID-19

 

The serious imbalance that this crisis is causing both to the productive sector and to the industrial fabric and the hotel and catering and distribution sector expresses the need to conceive a food system with an integral approach, which implies a genuine change in the way we produce, transform, distribute and consume food. 

 

The current food system is dominated by a vision of food as a commodity rather than as a common good. The transformation towards a sustainable food system requires an integrated vision where the central element is sustainability. That is, a food system that integrates environmental, social and economic elements into the equation.


This situation is slowing down the willingness of entities at the business and institutional level to work on animal welfare measures. This is understandable, and these times we are living in demand a great deal of flexibility and empathy from animal protection organisations with active business advocacy campaigns.

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