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Improving animal welfare

Healthy food and animal welfare belong together for many Germans. That’s why there are new approaches in livestock farming.

Martina Schüttler-Hansper, 21.01.2019
Cattle husbandry on an organic farm
Cattle husbandry on an organic farm © dpa

Increasing numbers of Germans would like livestock to enjoy a better life and not suffer during slaughter. They are interested in the origin of the animals they eat. According to Ernährungsreport 2018, an annual food report, 79% support government plans for a special label for food from animal-friendly farms and would even pay a higher price for it.

Animal welfare labelling

In future, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) aims to inform consumers about husbandry conditions, animal health and the duration of animal transports with the aid of a government animal welfare label. Farmers can improve the living conditions of their animals by, for example, providing more space, open pens, straw litter and opportunities that keep animals occupied. However, participation in the animal welfare labelling programme is voluntary.

Farmers that keep pigs, chickens or turkeys can already join Initiative Tierwohl (ITW), an animal welfare initiative that farming and meat industry associations have founded with the food retail trade. Critics complain that its criteria are not much higher than the statutory minimum requirements and only slightly improve how animals are kept.

Alternatives to chick culling

Every year over 45 million chicks are killed shortly after hatching. They are the male “siblings” of laying hens. So-called brother rooster initiatives offer an alternative. They invest in rearing the roosters, whose meat is then used. Another possibility is the keeping of dual-purpose breeds that produce not only eggs, but also meat, although their yields are lower.

Innovative methods of in-ovo sexing are receiving government funding. This should be able to prevent the hatching of male chicks in future.

Cow horn initiative

In Germany calves are normally dehorned a few weeks after birth. Some organic farms have shown that there are alternatives to this. They consciously decide to rear cattle that keep their horns. This means the farmers need to give the animals more time, more attention and more space.

BMEL: more information about livestock farming in Germany



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