THE BLOG

Why Care About Farm Animal Welfare?

13/12/2017 13:21 GMT | Updated 13/12/2017 13:21 GMT
RSPCA Assured
Farmer Harry Street with his cattle

It’s simple. Nearly one billion animals are farmed every year in the UK for food - that’s a staggering 56 times more farm animals than there are pet cats and dogs!

But sadly many of these animals are kept in conditions which the majority of us probably don’t think are good enough.

Take chickens, for example. Most of them have more space in the roasting tin than when they’re alive. They can be kept tightly packed together in barns with no natural light and are bred to grow so fast they put on weight too quickly, causing lameness and heart defects.

And around half of all egg laying hens are still kept in cages where they don’t have room to properly move around, flap their wings and do all the things that hens like doing like dustbathing and foraging.

Then there are pigs who - despite out-smarting dogs in some tests - can legally be kept in barren barns with not much space and no straw to lie on and root around in. Mothering pigs can even be kept in farrowing crates, metal crates which severely restrict their movement until the piglets are weaned.

But thankfully not all animals are farmed this way. There are a growing number of farmers, like me, who are farming the right way.

As a veal farmer the welfare of my cows is the most important thing to me. If they are happy, I am happy. So choosing to farm under the RSPCA Assured label to high welfare standards was an easy decision.

RSPCA Assured
Veal cattle on an RSPCA Assured member's farm

In contrast to the way most continental veal calves are raised in barren houses with no straw my cows live in warm, light, well-ventilated, barns with plenty of straw bedding. And RSPCA Assured veal calves, like mine, are never packed in lorries and transported abroad.

When my calves arrive on farm at less than three weeks old they can weigh just 50 kilograms and six months later as much as 300 kilograms. So giving them plenty of space to move around and grow is really important too.

Just like a bunch of kids they need things to do like bales of straw to kick around. I play the radio for them too - they love listening to Chris Evans and Jeremy Vine!

And like growing kids they also need a healthy diet. My calves are fed a high protein milk diet for the first 10 weeks and then they are fed on special cakes, rich in iron and fibre, and straw to keep them healthy.

Which brings me to another surprising fact. Veal calves normally live to between six to eight months by which time they look more like fully grown cattle - a far cry from the cute and cuddly, big-eyed babies most people imagine - and far older than the chicken, pigs and lambs destined for the supermarket.

RSPCA Assured
RSPCA Assured member Harry Street checks on his cattle

My cows, like other animals farmed under the RSPCA Assured label, have a good life. But what can we do to help all those other farm animals who are less fortunate; the hens in cages, the pigs with no bedding and the obese chickens with failing hearts?

Again, it’s simple. If you care about farm animal welfare choose higher welfare food like RSPCA Assured. The more people that do, the more supermarkets and restaurants will source it and more animals will have a better life.

And maybe one day choosing higher welfare food won’t be a choice we have to make, but as normal as filling up your car with unleaded petrol and recycling egg boxes.

Don’t miss Harry talking about veal production on Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast on Friday 15 December at 8pm on Channel 4.