China takes big step toward improving pig welfare

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Left to right: Song Weiping, vice president, Da Bei Nong; Xi Chunling, ICCAW chair; Zhonghua Zhao, country director, World Animal Protection China
Left to right: Song Weiping, vice president, Da Bei Nong; Xi Chunling, ICCAW chair; Zhonghua Zhao, country director, World Animal Protection China

Related tags Animal welfare Pork Livestock

Chinese agri-food producer Da Bei Nong will introduce group sow housing and lower stocking density in a scheme that could radically change animal welfare for half the world’s pig population.

Da Bei Nong plans to begin implementing higher animal welfare standards in pork operations this month. The company has 60,000 sows producing around one million pigs and its decision to improve animal welfare signals a shift in China’s attitude to animal welfare.

As China is home to around half of the world’s pigs, the decision to integrate industry-leading animal welfare could see other Chinese companies following suit.

Da Bei Nong is expanding quickly as China ramps up domestic production​, and the agricultural enterprise will improve enrichment for pigs and invest in comfortable flooring to enhance welfare.

‘Committed to welfare’

Its commitment was enshrined in ink last week when it signed a statement of intent with the World Animal Protection and the International Cooperation Committee of Animal Welfare (ICCAW) in Beijing.

Song Weiping, vice president of Da Bei Nong, said the business is “committed to the promotion of animal welfare and to the production of high quality and safe pork for our customers.​”

UK-based charity World Animal Protection has been working with Chinese pig producers for over a year, advising on how to integrate European-style animal welfare.

World Animal Protection’s country director in China, Zhao Zhonghua, signed the deal in Beijing. In a statement, he said: “Better animal welfare not only alleviates suffering, it leads to healthier animals, safer food for consumers and sustainable profit growth for farmers and producers. It is a mutually beneficial choice.​”

‘Harmony’ for animals

Xi Chunling, chair of the government-backed ICCAW​, has been a key figure driving welfare changes alongside the World Animal Protection in China.

Chunling said developing welfare solutions is improving the pig industry by “creating better environments for farm animals and ultimately helping to achieve better harmony between animals and people.​”

There is also a financial incentive for Chinese farmers to improve welfare standards. Two-thirds of Chinese consumers are prepared to pay more for higher welfare pork and nine in ten would change their purchasing habits to support meat that came from happier pigs, according to a 2016 World Animal Protection survey.

The charity is not the only one looking to help China improve its animal welfare. Earlier this year, Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals secured $450,000 in funding​ from US foundation the Open Philanthropy Project to teach Chinese farmers about UK animal welfare and ethically-sourced food standards.

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