Food firms fail to tackle animal welfare in the supply chain

27 February 2013

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27 February 2013 | Adam Leach

The majority of food companies have taken little or no action with regard to animal welfare in their supply chain, according to a new benchmark.

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, published yesterday, discovered for 42 out of the 68 global companies studied, there was little evidence of action on improving animal welfare in the supply chain, or it was not identified as an issue at all.

Nicky Amos, the Business Benchmark’s programme director, said: “The central conclusion from our research is that farm animal welfare is receiving nothing like the attention that other corporate responsibility issues are receiving. While over 70 per cent of the companies covered by our assessment acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue, many have yet to publish a formal policy and fewer still have set out the specific commitments that underpin this area.”

The benchmark assessed companies’ performance against a range of criteria, which included current thinking on animal welfare, current reporting practice and stakeholder feedback.

The aim is to highlight evidence of good practice that can be shared within the sector. The benchmark rated Unilever, Noble Foods and The Co-operative Food UK as companies where animal welfare is treated as integral part of business. In a section explaining what an integrated approach looks like, it identified those companies as having an “explicit farm animal welfare policy”, clearly defined objectives and targets, and incorporating animal welfare criteria into supply chain audits.

Mike Baker, chief executive of the World Society for the Protection of Animals which is supporting the benchmark, said: “Investors have told us this tool will help them understand which food business companies have transparent policies in place to manage animal welfare. Our hope is that it will encourage all businesses to adopt good practices.”

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