Colm’s report explores international research in animal welfare and the case for improving welfare standards on farms. In the years preceding this report, animal welfare has been discussed more and more in the media, largely driven by a growth in advertising and media campaigns by radical “animal rights” activists. As activist groups seek to undermine and broadcast negative information about animal- based food production, retailers, food processors and farmers are attempting to fight back by highlighting animal welfare standards.

Academic research in the field of animal welfare has been mounting in recent years but much of this research does not get disseminated to farmers or consumers. A deeper understanding of animals’ subjective experiences is also driving the demand for improved animal welfare standards on farms. Over the last few decades, thinking has shifted from providing a life free from pain, to providing a life worth living. This change in values represents a huge challenge for many modern animal production systems. However, it may present an opportunity for Irelands livestock farmers to distinguish themselves and their products.

In search of valuable research that can help Ireland meet this challenge, Colm travelled to the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands and the UK while also travelling on the African Global Focus Programme.

A key take away from this report is that consumer concerns about some aspects of animal welfare cannot be explained or educated away. Equally, any discovered attempt to hide unpleasant practices from consumers destroys consumer trust and confidence in farmers. Therefore, the only way to maintain consumers’ trust is to align production standards with consumer values. This report highlights several areas where this can be done.

Read about Colm here

Colm will be presenting the findings of his research at the 2019 Nuffield Ireland Conference in the Castleknock Hotel on November 15th.