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GRSB Updates for February 22, 2024

Animal welfare is usually considered in conjunction with Animal Health. Indeed, GRSB includes both in our Principles and Criteria as well as in our Global Goals. They are, of course, very closely linked and high standards of welfare cannot be achieved without good animal health care.

We are less inclined to think about the health benefits of good animal welfare, but they exist and should be an important consideration for anyone handling livestock.

Typical examples of welfare measures that can influence health include the way in which painful procedures such as disbudding, dehorning or castration are undertaken. As we know from our own experience, pain is a major stressor which can lead to health problems if not addressed.

The acknowledgement of animal sentience is an important step in animal welfare, and it was this recognition that led to the move from the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare to the Five Domains.

I always found the term “Affective States'' for the fifth domain a little confusing, but what it boils down to is the longer term mental state of the animal. While an animal may be temporarily thirsty, but has access to water, or may be startled by a predator, an affective state is the sum of positive and negative experiences which would stem from the other four domains, that is nutrition, environment, health and behaviour, over time.

Clearly, animals that are stressed due to any of those factors will end up having a less positive mental state than those that experience less stress. While the obvious stressors such as painful procedures can influence health outcomes, so can more insidious stressors.

Weaning method has been studied and found to be a contributor to health outcomes. We can all recognise weaning as being stressful for calves, but there is a considerable variation in how this is handled, with fenceline weaning contributing to a lower stress experience and better outcomes as calves spend more time resting and feeding.

This contributes to both better production outcomes, but also health outcomes as a well fed and less stressed calf is going to be healthier and better able to cope with immune challenges.

Most countries have farm assurance programmes by now, either voluntary or required for participation in formal markets. These also generally include animal welfare, though the level of ambition certainly varies.

In all cases, we should be looking for continuous improvement. Just like sustainability, animal welfare is not an end point but a daily consideration when working with animals.

As you may have heard on our board call, our social impact working group has set up two additional work streams on nutrition and indigenous rights. We are at the beginning of the discussion around nutrition, but initial thoughts centre on the concept of a healthy varied diet that supplies sufficient nutrients and micronutrients.

Recent articles in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlight the need to consider micronutrient availability when designing diets with a reduced environmental impact.

We need to avoid setting a purely self-serving target, but the importance of nutrient bioavailability will be part of the discussion. Nutritional guidelines' primary function is to recommend healthy diets for all, with the onset of trying to combine nutritional guidelines with environmental impacts, there is a tradeoff between what is healthy and other considerations.

As the groups most likely to experience shortfalls, even in high income countries, it is particularly important for growing children, young adults and women of reproductive age to have access to all of the nutrients and micronutrients that they need.

Restricting diets is not a way to improve population health outcomes, nor is taxing the most nutrient dense foods that we have. The increased cost will impact the poorest and most vulnerable. already likely to experience the most deficient nutrition, in any society.

Thank you, 

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
22 February 2024

According to a publication by World Animal Protection published in 2018 (and presented by them at our Latin American Sustainable Meat conference in São Paulo in 2019), animal welfare in Latin America is emerging in importance.

A study released at the end of 2016 showed that 89% of Colombian consumers, 84% of Mexicans and 78% of Chileans would buy products that had an animal welfare seal that guaranteed that there was no cruelty or mistreatment in the production process.

These interviewees stated that they believe well-being in animals gives rise to higher quality products and a more sustainable system with less environmental impact. The majority of those who showed interest in this topic were the younger generations.

I started my article with this statistic because every time we talk about Animal Welfare at the Tables of Latin America, we talk about the local consumer (and foreigner too) who does not value these important attributes in the product.

Everyone agrees on the productive benefits of raising healthy, stress-free animals. There is no doubt about that. What follows is the need for greater training for those who handle livestock.

The majority of Roundtables have reported concrete training actions in their goal reports, through alliances with government agencies, producer associations and private animal health companies that have been working on this subject for many years.

Another important aspect is the weak legislation that exists in Latin America in this regard. World Animal Protection has a world ranking that classifies countries according to their Animal Welfare legislation. They analyzed these fundamental aspects:

  • The recognition of animal sentience and sensitivity and the importance of the prohibition of animal suffering.
  • The existence of animal protection legislation.
  • The creation of government support organizations.
  • Adherence, compliance and support for international animal welfare standards.

After analysis, countries were ranked from the highest score, Grade A, to Grade G.

In Latin America, Mexico is the best ranked with a grade C and the rest of the countries evaluated have a grade D. There is still much room for improvement in Animal Welfare legislation. In many cases, there are regulations, but they are not enforced and therefore, compliance is low.

In this link you can see the world ranking of legislations according to World Animal Protection and its index.

In our region, there is still a lot to work on and improve. The GRSB Goal gives its members and Regional/National Roundtables a direction in which to follow. It is important that each country does its own analysis and determines its path to continue improving animal welfare, and of course animal health, which, as Rory wrote above, are directly linked.

Thank you,

Josefina Eisele
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Regional Director for Latin America 
22 February 2024

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