Animal welfare is a broad term covering the general health, welfare and wellbeing of animals in our diverse farming systems. It covers all the elements associated with livestock production including housing, grazing, nutrition, disease prevention and control, transport right through to humane handling and slaughter. It means providing for the animal’s physical and mental needs.
The UK is a recognised world leader in animal welfare. It drafted the first ever legislation on animal welfare nearly 200 years ago and established the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
– the world’s first animal welfare charity. In recent years animal welfare has also been rising up the global agenda, as a result of a number of factors including food scandals, tightening legislative requirements and investor concerns. Customers are also increasingly concerned about their health and are demanding information and reassurance on the origin and content of their food.
As a food specialist we have a significant impact on animal welfare standards. We have always been committed to ensuring that the welfare of all animals used in the production of our products is safeguarded. Our continued commitment to animal welfare has also been recognised by leading animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA
and Compassion in World Farming
Commitments and targets
Our goal is to ensure that our suppliers adopt and implement the highest practical and commercially viable standards of farm animal welfare across our supply base and be able to demonstrate continuous improvement in farm animal health and welfare standards.
Our commitment to animal welfare extends to our stance on animal testing. We do not test or ask suppliers or other third parties to test household products on animals – this extends to the ingredients used within these products. And since 1 January 2006 we have not sold any products or products containing ingredients which have been tested on animals for cosmetic purposes. Find out more about our approach to household goods.
Milk, dairy products, eggs and many types of meats, fish and seafood are used as ingredients in our products and we care greatly about the health and welfare of all the animals that feed into our supply chains. We believe that animal welfare has an impact on food quality, so we only want to use ingredients with have been farmed to good welfare standards.
Our overarching Farm Animal Health and Welfare Policy
requires that high standards of animal welfare are met and maintained at all stages of the animal’s life – on the farm, during transportation and at the place of slaughter. This commitment applies right across our business – from our fresh products to all the raw material proteins that are used as an ingredient in our prepared foods. These are global commitments and apply wherever we trade.
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
- Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
- Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
- Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
We have developed our own detailed standards and were the first retailer to pioneer a farm assurance scheme – M&S Select Farm Assurance – to address our customers’ concerns on food safety, animal welfare and animal health. We are working with our suppliers and a number of leading organisations (e.g. RSCPA
, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF)
, the Humane Slaughter Association
and FAI Farms
) to further research and progress our animal welfare standards through the adoption of outcome measure assessments.
We have a dedicated team of agriculture and fisheries specialists responsible for defining and implementing our agriculture policies across our business. All our agriculture managers are externally trained in animal welfare by Bristol University
and re-certified every 3 years and we have a requirement that our suppliers also undertake the same rigorous certification. Our aquaculture team has worked with industry experts, Fish Vet Group
, to develop and launch a comprehensive training course on fish and shrimp welfare, which is followed by all our aquaculture partners.
Our approach to continually improving animal welfare focuses on:
Establishing and maintaining clear minimum standards
Supporting programmes that further our understanding and build capability within our supply chain
Improving welfare through science-based outcome measures
Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.
We have a long-term partnership with FAI Farms
who provide us with animal welfare knowledge and direction and are responsible for managing our independent data collection and supply chain research and outcome measures.