Animal husbandry was also scrutinised in the “Thünen Report 65”, but no clear picture emerged. At least there are indications of advantages of organic animal husbandry. A state animal welfare label takes account of consumer demand for more animal welfare.
The study – across all types of livestock and production methods – was unable to provide a clear answer as to whether organic farming automatically means more animal welfare. Organic farming had advantages for 35 percent of the comparison pairs, conventional farming for 19 percent. In 46 percent of cases, however, no clear differences were found between organic and conventional animal husbandry. The only divergences were found in hoof and limb health.
Apparently, management has a greater influence on animal health than farming methods. However, in most cases only animal health was considered, but other dimensions of animal welfare were excluded. The effects of more species-appropriate husbandry on the emotional state of the animals, on the other hand, were largely ignored. With regard to behaviour and emotions, there are at least indications of advantages of organic animal husbandry – for example, due to the greater space available or access to open spaces.
Not least in response to consumer demand for greater animal welfare, seven major supermarket chains (Aldi Nord/Süd, Edeka/Netto, Kaufland/Lidl, Rewe/Penny) have already introduced an animal welfare label in April 2019: Since then, private label products have been awarded a four-level label by the Society for the Promotion of Animal Welfare in Livestock Production (Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Tierwohls in der Nutztierhaltung). In Germany, there are also several privately organised animal welfare labels, including “Neuland-Label” (Newland-Label), “Für mehr Tierschutz” (For More Animal Protection) and “Tierschutz kontrolliert” (Animal Protection Controlled).
“Organic” does not mean “animal welfare”
More and more consumers want to know where the animals come from and that they had a good life and did not suffer when slaughtered. The state will therefore follow suit this year with its own animal welfare label in order to create more transparency: “We want to make the identification of animal products that go beyond the legal requirements for animal farming reliable, simple and consumer-friendly. To this end, we need the multi-stage development of a state label based on binding criteria for meat from better animal husbandry (animal welfare label).”
All farms, both conventional and organic, can reach the third level, the premium level. Their requirements even go beyond the animal husbandry requirements in organic farming, because animal health criteria are also taken into account, which are, for example, recorded at slaughter. The two labels, the planned state animal welfare label and the organic label, are therefore not mutually exclusive but complementary.
As a first step, criteria for more animal welfare in pig farming were defined. The requirements for the state label, which is not obligatory for everyone, should be significantly higher than the legal minimum standard. For this reason, only those may advertise with the state animal welfare label who have complied with higher criteria from birth to slaughter of the animal in a mandatory and verifiable manner. The requirements include the space and employment opportunities for the animals as well as the structure of the pens, animal health and the duration of transport.