^ Bristol Welfare Assurance Programme (BWAP)

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Aim of BWAP

This system aims to increase the ability of certification schemes to deliver assurance to consumers on animal welfare by incorporating valid, repeatable and feasible animal-based assessment techniques into certification schemes.

WHAT does this mean?

The Bristol Welfare Assurance Programme (BWAP) aims to incorporate existing animal based welfare assessment techniques into conventional and organic farming certification systems. The assessment protocols include dairy and beef cattle, pigs and laying hens and are based on previous experience from the following projects :

an RSPCA Freedom Food study, where animal based welfare assessment protocols were developed and used to assess the impact of the Freedom Food Standards on animal health and welfare.
a DEFRA funded study (OF0314), which ensured the system was also applicable to organic systems.

Animal welfare picture 1

WHY should we do it?

  • Benefits to farmers
    • Objective information about animal health and welfare including comparison to similar farms
    • Intervention guidelines highlighting specific areas requiring action
    • Problems can addressed within farm specific health plan with advice from veterinarians/advisor
    • Maximise animal health and productivity without compromising welfare
  • Benefit to consumers and certification schemes
    • Potential to maintain and improve animal welfare on farms in certification schemes
    • Transparent demonstration of high animal welfare standards on farms in schemes
    • Valuable tool for certification bodies or enforcement agencies to monitor and review their own performance

HOW is it done?

The assessment links the data from the assessment of medicine records, and animal based observations with an evaluation of the farms management of health and welfare issues (health plan) and an assessment of compliance with relevant certification or legal requirements:

  • Medicine records and Health plan for the last available year are reviewed. This may be done as part of the normal inspection process and an advance copy, if available, saves time on the farm.
  • Assessment of Animals : The assessment will extend the amount of time an inspector will look at your animals. This will involve seeing all the animals on the farm and a more detailed assessment of some animals. Cattle and pigs are assessed visually only and laying hens will normally be handled briefly. Animals can remain in their normal environment. Outdoor animals that are not too flighty can be assessed in the field.
  • Intervention guidelines devised by the specific schemes ensure that assessors carry out further investigations for issues of potential concern.
  • Management (health plans) : The preventive and corrective actions taken by the farmer are assessed in the context of the animal-based assessment i.e. What action is the farmer taking to either prevent future problems occurring or dealing with current problems?
  • Compliance with standards : BWAP encourages assessors to investigate the compliance with existing relevant standards.

animal welfare picture 2

What are the OUTCOMES?

The farmer will get a feedback report of all his results, which are compared with other similar farms and with intervention guidelines, previously set by veterinarians. Conditions exceeding the intervention guideline highlight farm specific priorities for action that could yield improved health, welfare or productivity. This would then justify further investigation by the farmer, their advisors and the assessor.

This system has not resulted in a change of the certification or legal welfare standards so exceeding the intervention guideline would never be used on its own as evidence for non-compliance.

European welfare initiative

This assessment system includes an animal-based welfare assessment system that has been developed from UK research. There is also considerable interest in this methodology in other countries. The University of Bristol is one of many partners working on a EU funded integrated project, welfare quality, that aims to deliver a European standard for welfare assessment systems. The assessment methodology included within this system is likely to be updated in accordance with the findings of this European initiative.