The big issues facing Britain’s farm animals

Who are RSPCA Assured?

RSPCA Assured is the RSPCA's farmed animal welfare assurance provider and ethical food label.

Every year, our dedicated team of assessors inspect almost 4,000 hatcheries, farms, hauliers and abattoirs to make sure they meet strict RSPCA welfare standards - ensuring a better life for farmed animals from birth to slaughter.

The RSPCA Assured label on products makes it easy to spot products from animals that had a better life so you can feel confident and good about your choice.

Our Purpose

To offer you a high welfare choice by ensuring animals are farmed to RSPCA welfare standards.

Our Vision

All farm animals have a good life and are treated with compassion and respect.

Our values

  • Education - Helping people of all ages become informed and compassionate consumers
  • Partnership - Working cooperatively with others for the benefit
    of farm animal welfare
  • Integrity - Acting with professionalism, accountability, honesty
    and transparency
  • Compassion - Showing kindness and respect towards animals,
    people and our planet
Animal welfare in the UK

The problem

Over one billion animals are farmed in the UK every year. The vast majority of these animals are kept in conditions that the RSPCA finds unacceptable. 

The solution

All of our members must adhere to the RSPCA’s higher animal welfare standards. Inspections are carried out regularly to ensure our standards are being maintained and that animal welfare is always a priority.

Slaughter

The problem
Around one in ten farmed animals in the UK are not stunned before they are slaughtered and another 15.6 per cent of poultry are inverted and shackled whilst conscious. This can cause animals a great deal of pain, stress and suffering.

The solution
All animals which are inspected by RSPCA Assured must be pre-stunned to ensure that they are unconscious prior to slaughter. The RSPCA's welfare standards also prohibit the routine use of water-bath stunning for poultry.

Mutilations

The problem

Many farmed animals are subjected to mutilations. Piglets often have their teeth clipped and/or their tails docked and over 90% of hens will have their beaks trimmed. These practices are employed to avoid other animal welfare problems, such as tail-biting in pigs and feather pecking in hens. 

The solution

The RSPCA is committed to finding solutions to these problems and making mutilations unnecessary. In the meantime, the RSPCA standards insist that most of these procedures are only undertaken as a last resort when other measures have been tried.

Crowded conditions

The problem
About 30 per cent of the UK’s egg-laying hens are still kept in cages and around 60 per cent of pregnant pigs give birth in crates. Even farmed animals not kept in cages or crates are often kept in overcrowded conditions. This lack of space limits their ability to stay active, healthy and carry out natural behaviours.

The solution
The RSPCA’s standards clearly specify the minimum amount of space each animal must be given, which is typically above minimum legal requirements in many cases. This allows them to move around freely and carry out their natural behaviours, such as foraging, exploring and washing.

Breed

The problem
Farmed animals have historically been bred to be highly productive often at the cost of their health and welfare. This breeding for ever greater levels of production has contributed to beef animals being unable to give birth naturally and skeletal and organ problems in the vast majority of chickens bred for meat.

The solution
The RSPCA has been involved in efforts to try to breed out these issues, as well as only allowing the use of higher welfare, slower-growing breeds of chicken within its own standards. In its welfare standards for Beef Cattle, the RSPCA prohibits the use of breeding techniques which result in routine caesarian sections because the cattle cannot give birth naturally.

Enrichment

The problem
Many farm animals are not provided with bedding; pigs can legally be kept on hard slatted floors. Many more animals are not provided with sufficient enrichment to ensure a healthy level of physical and mental activity. Enrichment includes materials like straw and objects that encourage natural active and inquisitive behaviours like foraging, exploring and, for poultry, dustbathing.

The solution
The RSPCA standards insist that animals are provided with enough suitable bedding and enrichment to ensure comfort and stimulation. For examples, pigs must be provided with material such as straw to engage them to express their natural behaviour of rooting, whilst hens and chickens must be given objects to peck at and perch on.

Transport and handling

The problem
Farmed animals are often transported long distances without access to food and water. This can be a stressful experience and can cause injury or heat exhaustion. Before transportation, the animals are loaded onto the vehicles. If this handling process is rushed and performed incorrectly, it can cause bruising and or even broken bones.

The solution
Unlike some other assurance providers, the RSPCA’s standards cover the whole of an animal’s life from birth to slaughter, including the specific requirements related to the handling and transport of animals.

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