The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme at present covers the production of eggs, pork, chicken, turkey, salmon and dairy veal. RSPCA-Approved farms maintain a high level of welfare for the housing and management of layer hens, pigs, meat chickens, turkeys and salmon. Given the serious welfare issues facing hens in cages, sows in sow stalls and traditional farrowing crates, and birds in crowded sheds, the RSPCA believed it was important to first introduce a welfare-friendly alternative for these species. The RSPCA will look into the feasibility of introducing higher welfare standards for lamb production.
The production of prime lambs is an extensive industry and is generally not associated with the welfare concerns related to the behavioural restriction of animals in intense confinement (such as layer hens in cages, sows in sow stalls, and meat chickens in large sheds). Nevertheless, some prime lamb production occurs in feedlots as opposed to pastures and this a potential cause for concern as movement is restricted and animals may be exposed to extremes of heat or cold. As with all livestock production systems, animals may be subjected to painful procedures – in the case of lambs, tail docking and castration – without the use of anaesthetics or pain relief.
In the absence of RSPCA standards for lamb production, consumers are encouraged to contact the makers of their favourite lamb products and ask them about standards of care for their animals.