RSPCA Assured in “listening mode” with industry following new scheme standards

A photo of free range turkeys.

RSPCA and RSPCA Assured say they are in “listening mode” with industry, following concerns raised over a new set of standards for members of its laying hen scheme, which were published without widespread industry consultation.

Members of the RSPCA Assured scheme have been informed on a new set of standards which require egg producers to ensure the provision of natural daylight for birds and the addition of verandas on poultry sheds.

An accompanying explanatory note states that the new requirements are required to be implemented across various timeframes, dependent on if you are an existing or future scheme member, and whether you are a barn or free range producer.

The NFU believes in a core set of principles for farm assurance when developing new standards. Central to this is that all standards should be developed in collaboration with the wider industry, with producers at the centre of this development phase.

The new standards also lack evidence of a clear cost-benefit analysis and transparent justifications based on relevant scientific evidence. Other areas that the NFU has identified that require further discussion include practicality, benefit to bird welfare, cost and proposed timeframe limitations.

NFU remains focused on ensuring industry input

The NFU has held a number of meetings with senior representatives from RSPCA and RSPCA Assured to express the significant concerns that members have with their new standards for laying hens. These meetings have included representation from egg producers from various regions of different size and scale, alongside representatives from the poultry sector.

The meetings have provided an opportunity for the RSPCA and RSPCA Assured to hear directly from producers about the impacts that their standards will have on farm.

RSPCA and RSPCA Assured have assured us they are in “listening mode” and are taking on our points raised at the meetings. They will be considering next steps before returning to us with any decisions.

The NFU remains focused on ensuring that any new standards are properly consulted on and have a demonstrable benefit to bird welfare which is supported by relevant science and evidence and endeavours to keep members informed as dialogue over this issue continues.

Crucial that way forward is discussed with industry

Voicing his concerns, NFU Poultry Board chair James Mottershead said that a lack of consultation at industry level could lead to “impractical standards” being imposed upon farm businesses.

James said: “It’s crucial that RSPCA Assured brings the poultry sector together, including producers, to discuss a way forward, because new standards are no use whatsoever if producers can’t afford to deliver them.”

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