The UK-based Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has been awarded funding from the Open Philanthropy Project – a US foundation – to support long-term work in China in advancing farm animal welfare.
Over a two-year period, the charity will receive US$450,000 (£359,000) to use the UK’s animal welfare standards and welfare labelling, RSCPA Assured, as a model for similar food assurances in China.
Due to its high population of pigs and poultry, improvements to livestock husbandry have the potential to affect a significant number of animals in the country.
The grant gives the RSPCA the capabilities of working closely with the official International Co-operation Committee of Animal Welfare – an important organisation in bringing together Chinese stakeholders, the farming sector and food retail industries.
“This grant is a major step forward in our efforts to improve animal welfare in China,” commented Paul Littlefair, RSPCA head of international. “There is a real and growing appetite, both at government level and among the public, for ethically produced food and reliable food labelling. The scale of farming in China means there is an opportunity to make an extremely broad and lasting impact on animal welfare.”
In 2005, China hosted its first farm animal welfare conference, which was co-hosted by the RSPCA. Its aim was to address concerns over food safety, with an added emphasis on poor animal treatment on farms, during transportation and at slaughter, and the impact this has on the meat. Following on from this event, leading welfare scientists have travelled to Beijing to share experiences and findings.
The common consensus in the industry since then is that Chinese scientists and food industry leaders are showing more of a focus on the importance of animal welfare. Every March, 3,000 delegates attend the National People’s Congress in Beijing to discuss major issues facing China’s society and economy. This year, scientist and Congress delegate Zhao Wanping called for China to make way for legislature for higher and stronger welfare measures for farm animals. Wanping said that achieving a higher level of standards would be a step-by-step process of gradual improvements, driven by increased consumer awareness and demand for “safer, greener and healthier” food.
In May 2016, the Chinese authorities issued guidelines to help encourage the public to decrease their intake of meat consumption, with the aim of improving public health.
Littlefair concluded: “It appears that China is moving in a similar direction to Europe, with a focus on encouraging citizens to eat modest amounts of meat, but to choose carefully, considering the impact of their eating habits particularly on the environment and animal welfare. A higher welfare assurance scheme will enable Chinese consumers for the first time to think about the wellbeing of farm animals in their purchasing choices.”