The Welsh Government sees a key opportunity to protect farm animals

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The RSPCA Cymru has urged the Welsh Government to ensure that any post-Brexit agricultural support scheme incentivizes higher welfare standards on farms in Wales.

The call comes as the animal welfare charity responds to the Welsh Government’s latest consultation on the future of farm support after the end of the implementation period; the eleventh month period following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union where EU rules largely continued to apply.

After December 31, grant payments will no longer follow EU rules and the Welsh Government will be able to implement its own scheme to financially support the farming industry.

RSPCA Cymru described the opportunity now available to the Welsh Government as “the biggest opportunity to improve animal welfare in Wales since devolution began”.

In Wales there are 9,500,000 sheep, over 160,000 cattle herding herds, over 250,000 dairy herding and around 24,000 pigs – highlighting the ‘seismic’ number of animals that a new social protection program could help. The poultry stock in Wales also stands at over 7.7 million birds.

A poll for RSPCA Cymru previously found that 80% of adults say animal welfare standards are important in their buying decisions. Meanwhile, Eurobarometer surveys show that 62% of the UK public do not think animal welfare is given sufficient prominence in UK food policy.

The Welsh Government has published plans to support farmers in the new year, ahead of the introduction of a new Agriculture (Wales) Bill during Senedd’s next term.

RSPCA Cymru wants to see policy makers in Wales begin the transition to a new scheme as soon as possible which recognizes and rewards farmers for providing higher welfare standards throughout the life of farm animals.

The charity believes that incentivizing farmers who are members of an officially recognized higher welfare agricultural insurance scheme will ensure improved welfare standards above current standard practices in the industry and promote continuous improvements in well-being. There is also support for one-off capital payments to equip farms to become eligible to join higher social insurance schemes.

David Bowles, RSPCA public affairs manager, said: “As the implementation period ends on December 31, Wales is at a crossroads when it comes to farm animal welfare. .

“Ministers face the biggest opportunity to improve animal welfare in Wales since devolution began – and we hope the coming interim period, and the new Farm Bill during Senedd’s next term, will be used as an opportunity to improve the welfare of millions of farm animals.

“We urge the Welsh Government to incentivize farmers who deliver higher welfare standards – recognizing those who are members of higher welfare farm insurance schemes is a great way to do this. Such schemes give ministers added security of compliance and that well-being results will be used to drive positive change.

“We have a great opportunity for Wales’ food brand to become globally synonymous with higher wellbeing. We hope next year and then the Farm Bill which will follow during Senedd’s next term , will lead to positive change for a seismic number of farm animals kept in Wales.”

More information about the RSPCA’s work to improve farm animal welfare can be found online.

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