Meat-ing animal welfare conditions

WHERE does our meat come from? What goes on in the journey from the farm to our tables? Those are some questions that do not get asked often.

Our high demand for meat in our diets has consequently resulted in producers churning out meat as cheaply and quickly as they possibly can.

President of the board of World Animal Protection Dr Mark Watts calls it “intensive farming” or “factory farming”.

“Animals are kept in conditions which are not pleasant for them, making them suffer,” says Dr Watts.

He shares an instance where female pigs are kept in small grates that prevent them from lying down, making it easier for them to produce litters.

“The pigs are kept in crates that are so narrow that they cannot turn around, sit or lie down. They don’t allow the animal to exhibit any of their natural tendencies,” says Dr Watts.

“This is the result of the need to produce more and more meat, and to meet that growing demand.”

Dr Watts said consumers should be educated on how they can choose “natural meat” where the animals have their five freedoms, which are the rights of animals under human control.

These freedoms are the freedom from hunger or thirst; discomfort; pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress.

“I think our responsibility is to look after animals properly,” said Dr Watts.

“It is actually beneficial to the farmer to treat their animal well because they'll get more out of the animal.

“If you don’t care for the animal, it won’t last very long,” he said.

Currently, Malaysia does not have any regulations in regards to the treatment of farm animals. And I feel that they are very much overlooked by the Malaysian public.

But with the upcoming Animal Welfare Bill, deputy director-general of veterinary services (DVS) Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin says that farms and slaughterhouses will be among the businesses that will have to be licensed.

“There will be specific standards (to receive a licence) at all levels. Those standards will be clear, comprehensive and transparent,” said Dr Nizamuddin.

“At farms, there will be standards on how to rear the animals, how they are kept, and the food and water they must receive.

“At slaughterhouses, there will be standards on how to handle the animal before and during the slaughter, and ensuring that the animals are properly kept and fed.

“If those standards are adhered to, the abuses will be less, because people will be ensuring that those standards are adhered to,” he said.

Dr Nizamuddin said that the Bill promotes animal welfare and their five freedoms.

He explained that animal welfare is important because if they’re in good health, their productivity will increase, which will then garner better profits.

“If they are healthy, we will have better produce that’s safer to eat. We will also have fewer animal deaths. There are so many more advantages that is beneficial to us,” he said.

To be honest, I never really thought about where my food was coming from. But I am glad that with the upcoming Animal Welfare Bill (that was tabled in the last parliamentary session), Malaysia will be taking a huge step forward in terms of animal welfare.

With the help of the Bill, I hope that the mindsets of Malaysians will slowly start to change. I hope that we will not only take better care of our domestic pets, but also farm animals, working animals and zoo animals. All animals deserve to have their rights upheld!

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own


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