Are companies concerned with animal welfare?

Sullivan, R., Amos, N., & Van de Weerd, H.A. (2017). Corporate Reporting on Farm Animal Welfare: An Evaluation of Global Food Companies’ Discourse and Disclosures on Farm Animal Welfare. Animals, 7, 17.

As the general population becomes more concerned with the welfare of livestock, the methods of farming by the world’s largest food companies have come under scrutiny. This paper assesses the information these companies are publishing regarding their animal welfare strategies.

Each year, the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) assesses the policies of the world’s largest food companies in regards to their animal welfare standards, with an aim of improving standards for the animals’ lives. This paper reviewed the published welfare reports in 2012 and 2013. The aim was to determine whether there was a change in how important animal welfare is to the companies. The companies chosen for the evaluation were taken from three different areas of business: food retailers & wholesalers, restaurants & bars, and food producers. They were assessed across three core areas: management commitment, governance & performance and leadership & innovation. Each company had an overall point score awarded following a series of criteria. In general, the more detailed the information published on their animal welfare standard and the higher their commitment to having a high standard, the more points the company was awarded.

Awareness of farm animal welfare is increasing

Overall, it was seen that many food companies across Europe are yet to publicly acknowledge the importance of animal welfare as a moral and business issue. In 2012, only 34% of the companies had published detailed animal welfare policies, but this did increase to 44% by 2013. Despite this figure remaining below half of the total number of companies involved, it does show a promising future of increasing awareness. Furthermore, the overall average score across the companies for the three core areas did increase by 5% from 2012 to 2013, suggesting that the companies were regarding animal welfare as more important than previously.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the issues involved within the food industry, and are becoming more critical of food suppliers that do not meet certain ethical standards. This demand for an increase in animal welfare, plus work by companies such as the BBFAW, appear to be having a positive effect on helping large-scale food companies realise the positives of implementing animal welfare schemes into their farming methods.

World Animal Protection’s view

We believe that it is important to review and evaluate company’s animal welfare standards, only then can improvement in animal welfare standards be worked on and improved.