Raising the bar for animal welfare
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that most New Zealander’s care about animal welfare. And care deeply. We spend vast amounts each year on our four-legged companions and are quick to condemn practices that we feel are cruel towards animals farmed for their meat, milk and fibre.
Animal welfare certification programmes offer a tangible way people can support better animal welfare, while also purchasing products made in a way that aligns with their personal values. One such example is SPCA Certified, which replaced the SPCA Blue Tick programme in October 2020.
SPCA Certified covers a wide range of animals, including layer-hens, meat chickens, pigs, beef cattle, sheep, dairy sheep and doggy day-care centres, with more to come in 2021. People wanting their farms and businesses to be approved have to meet the SPCA Certified animal welfare standards and pass at least two independent audits each year, one of which is unannounced, to make sure they’re treating the animals in the way that SPCA expects.
The SPCA Certified standards
Our standards are based on a framework known as the ‘Five Domains’, which aims to give animals a good life, rather than focusing on just preventing cruelty and suffering. They are also based on the latest scientific findings and best practices, and are reviewed every three years to ensure they remain up to date.
For animals such as chickens and pigs, no cages, stalls or crates are permitted and the focus is on allowing them to range freely, in areas with lots of natural shade and shelter. Where this is not possible, such as with free-farmed pigs or laying hens housed in barns, the animals must have environmental enrichment and be able to express their natural behaviours. When it comes to sheep and beef cattle, SPCA Certified requires that the young are kept with their mothers until natural weaning occurs and that all animals have appropriate shade and shelter, to protect them from extreme weather.
So, if you care about animal welfare, how can you help? If you choose to buy animals products and services, the obvious answer is to choose those that have the SPCA Certified logo, or one of the other programmes if that better aligns with your personal values. However, not all animal welfare certification programmes are created equal. Check the programme’s standards to see what is and is not covered. All good programmes should have these freely available in full (not just a summary) on their websites and also have a contact page where you can ask questions. They should also be using independent auditors to check their members are following the rules.
Rethinking the way we eat
But what about the cost? Yes, it is true that higher welfare products and services generally cost a fraction more than those that meet just the minimum legal standards. We understand that not all New Zealand households can afford to be picky and choosy. One solution is to reduce the amount you are consuming or using. That isn’t to say that you have to ditch chicken and go 100% vegetarian or vegan, simply cut down on the quantity or frequency a little. You may have heard about ‘Meatless Monday’ and ‘Flexitarian’ diets adopting an approach like this, can allow you to afford higher welfare products.
Finally, the other thing you can do is ask your local supermarket or food store where their products come from and if they are farmed to higher welfare standards. If you can’t see the SPCA Certified logo, or another one that you are interested in, let them know that you are looking for SPCA Certified and ask when it will be available.
If you want to know what to look for in your local food outlet, then check out our products page and help support the good guys!