Woolworths drops animal welfare benchmark aspirations

Sheep Central, May 24, 2023

The United Kingdom-based Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare ranks food companies against each other on a series of animal welfare markers – with both Coles and Woolworths aspiring to increase their rankings.

However, those aspirations came under scrutiny from farmers when BBFAW’s animal rights-centric partners, Compassion in World Farming and FourPaws International, proposed the inclusion of new criteria to rank companies on commitments to reducing reliance on animal-sourced foods.

Woolworths announced a review of its goal earlier this year stating that it was not aligned with targets to reduce animal protein. A spokesperson said the company has since decided to end its ambition to reach Tier 1 on BBFAW.

“We are always striving to lead on animal welfare and we have previously used the Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare as a tool to measure our progress,” the spokesperson said.

“Following a review of changes that have been made to the BBFAW, we have made the decision to no longer aspire to its Tier 1 rating.

“Unfortunately, the international benchmark fails to recognise the unique context of Australian farming, and the ways our farmers care for animals in a different climate and geography.”

A Coles spokesperson told Sheep Central in March that the chain has never set a tier target for the Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare, but its focus on high animal welfare has been recognised in BBFAW’s ranking under the previous assessment criteria.

“We will continue to use a range of measures of performance in animal welfare rather than the singular use of the Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare.”

“We will continue to work with suppliers who have animal welfare standards that meet the high expectations of Coles and our customers, as part of our overall commitment to sustainable meat supply chains,” the spokesperson said.

The Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare is based on publicly available information and is not an elective benchmark for companies. Other requirements to achieve higher animal welfare outcomes used by Coles include RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards, sow-stall free pork and cage-free eggs.

Woolworths supports Australian welfare benchmark

The Federal Government has been working towards updating the national animal welfare strategy, with $5 million over four years committed in the latest budget. A document on the Department of Agriculture’s website says the strategy will be formulated with a wide range of industry and community groups.

“A renewed Australian Animal Welfare Strategy re-establishes a national framework for priority setting and associated national standards and measures of improvement for animal welfare outcomes,” the document said.

“Demonstrating Australia’s strong animal welfare standards will support increased access to overseas markets, while strengthening the reputation of our animal and agricultural industries with trading partners.”

Animal welfare has also come into the sites of Andrew and Nicola Forrest, who are setting up a philanthropic organisation to support research into animal welfare and better defining what it is.

The Woolworths spokesperson said the company still had strong animal welfare commitments and it would support an Australian benchmark.

“Our own animal welfare standards for suppliers have been developed with experts, independently of the BBFAW, and will not be affected by this change,” the spokesperson said.

“We know Australian farmers and producers care deeply for the animals they raise and we remain committed to working in partnership with them to improve real animal welfare outcomes.

“This decision in no way detracts from our unwavering dedication to animal welfare – rather it reflects our scientific, outcomes-based approach to delivering produce which cares for the animals in our supply chain.

“We still believe it’s important that retailers and producers are measured on animal welfare by independent experts. We’ve heard calls for an Australian benchmark and we would support the industry in its development.”



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  1. Clare Ellen, May 25, 2023

    “We know Australian farmers and producers care deeply for the animals they raise and we remain committed to working in partnership with them to improve real animal welfare outcomes.”

    No one who cares deeply for animals breeds them for the sole purpose of profiting from their exploitation, commodification, and slaughter, or their export overseas for fully conscious slaughter after a traumatic voyage by sea of (generally) two to three weeks.

    If the producers who recently witnessed what the actual demise of “their” pigs bred for slaughter in “world’s best practice” slaughter facilities in Australia looks like (thanks to Chris Delforce and Farm Transparency Project ) “deeply” cared about “their” animals, surely all deliveries from production facilities to slaughter facilities would have stopped.

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