The Animal Welfare Act 2006 gives protection to all animals, including farm animals. Farm animals are, however, given further protection by the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007.
To which animals do the Regulations apply?
The Regulations apply to all animals which are bred or kept for the production of food, wool or skin or for other farming purposes. The Regulations do not, however, apply to:
- fish, reptiles or amphibians;
- animals while at, or solely kept or bred for, competitions, shows, cultural or sporting events or activities;
- laboratory and experimental animals;
- animals living in the wild.
Duties on persons responsible for farmed animals
The Regulations impose certain general duties on persons who are responsible for farmed animals. The extent of each duty will depend upon the needs of the type of animal in question.
In addition to the general duties there are certain additional duties on persons responsible for poultry, laying hens, calves, cattle, pigs and rabbits in certain circumstances.
The general duties are as follows:
There is a duty to ensure that there are a sufficient number of staff to care for the animals and to ensure that such staff are suitably qualified to look after the animals.
There are duties to ensure that appropriate and regular inspections are carried out to check the well-being of animals and to avoid any suffering. There are also duties to provide suitable accommodation and relating to sick and injured animals.
There is a duty to keep records recording any medical treatments given to the animals and the number of mortalities found on each inspection. Such records must be kept for at least 3 years.
Freedom of movement
There is a duty to ensure that the movement of animals is not restricted in such a way as to cause unnecessary suffering or injury and in the case of tethered animals, to ensure that they are given an appropriate amount of space.
Buildings and accommodation
There is a duty to ensure that buildings and accommodation is safe and capable of being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and to ensure that sufficient light is provided.
Animals not kept in buildings
There is a duty to ensure that sufficient protection is given to animals not kept in buildings from adverse weather conditions, predators and risks to their health and requiring that they be given access to a well-drained lying area.
Automatic or mechanical equipment
Where automatic or mechanical equipment is used there are duties relating to the inspection of such equipment and regarding the rectification of any defects in such equipment and to ensure that safe guards are put into place in certain circumstances should the equipment develop a fault.
Feed, water and other substances
There are duties relating to what animals should be fed, what they should not be fed and when they should be fed. All animals should have access to an adequate supply of fresh drinking water. There are also requirements as to feeding and watering equipment.
There are requirements relating to breeding and breeding procedures.
To use of an electrical current for the purpose of immobilising an animal is prohibited.
Codes of Practice
The Regulations also require persons involved in the care of farm animals to be familiar with and have access to any relevant code of practice which may be in place. A number of such codes of practices have been published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Failure to comply with the Regulations
A person who fails to comply with the Regulations risks being prosecuted through the criminal courts and may be fined and/ or imprisoned.