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Things that look the same but are not: Certification VS accredited certification.

Certification is a standard procedure by which a body gives written assurance that a product, process or service conforms to specified requirements. In this way, certification seals have become an indispensable tool for consumers who want to have guarantees and reliability about the promises a product makes to them.

But some things may seem to be the same thing, but they are not the same thing at all. Thus, an accredited certification is, yes or yes, evaluated in an audit by ENAC, so it has an additional guarantee that gives it the official accreditation. However, in certifications that have NOT been accredited, the reliability is unknown.

Just as a country can only have one president, so it is the same with accreditation bodies: it can only have one.

A National Accreditation Body is an entity recognised by international legislation as responsible for assessing and recognising the conformity of assessing bodies: certification bodies, testing laboratories, calibration laboratories, inspection entities, etc. Each country has designated its own. In the case of Spain, the National Accreditation Body is ENAC.

The National Accreditation Bodies are the entities in charge of evaluating, by means of the corresponding audits, the bodies that assess conformity (laboratories, inspection, certification and verification or validation bodies, among others) and, in this way, guarantee that they are technically competent.

This is why not all certifications are equal and do not offer the same guarantees and reliability. Only those certifications that have been accredited by a National Accreditation Body, such as ENAC, have the additional guarantee offered by accreditation.

In this way, accredited certification becomes a maximum guarantee of reliability for the consumer thanks to the fact that the entity that endorses the certification is accountable for its work to ENAC. Thus, during the accredited certification process, both the commitments that the product acquires through certification and the certification process itself are evaluated and verified, as well as the entity that carries out the certification process.

Animal welfare of ruminants, an unavoidable commitment.

The Spanish beef interprofessionals, Provacuno, and the Spanish and Hungarian sheep and goat interprofessionals, Interovic and JTT, consider the animal welfare of ruminants to be «an unavoidable commitment», which is why they encourage farmers to opt for accredited animal welfare certificates based on scientific criteria that are traceable and reproducible over time.

Unavoidable commitment

Only in this way will consumers be able to have full guarantees and reliability that the products they consume have truly been produced with the utmost respect and care for animals.

In this sense, Javier López, director of Provacuno, considers that «accredited certificates are the only ones that are reliable for the consumer because behind them is a National Accreditation Body (ENAC) that acts as a guarantor of reliability, transparency and independence during the certification process».

For his part, Tomás Rodríguez, coordinator of Interovic, explains that «another of the key aspects for generating consumer confidence is that certification is based on scientific criteria that are traceable, measurable and reproducible over time, the only way for the consumer to have full confidence that animal welfare is demonstrable».

What are national accreditation bodies for and why would it be a jungle without them?

  • They have an international character and are coordinated through the International Accreditation Forum (IAF).
  • They make it possible to homogenise evaluation criteria internationally, applying requirements established in ISO standards.
  • They guarantee the independence and rigour of the assessment bodies (certification bodies, testing laboratories, calibration laboratories, inspection bodies, etc.).
  • Each country has its own. In the case of Spain, the National Accreditation Body is ENAC.

When accredited certification also becomes a tool for improving profitability and productivity.

Accredited certification involves the implementation of a process on the farm that requires the recording of data and indicators. This daily monitoring provides farmers with a control and traceability system that allows them to analyse the information in order to guarantee animal welfare and continuous improvement.

In this way, the accredited certification process is not only a guarantor of animal welfare, but also a valuable tool for improving the profitability of farms.

For Sandor Kukovic, coordinator of the Hungarian sheep and goat interprofessional JTT, «a farm is a business that has to generate profitability and that depends first and foremost on the health and welfare of the animals. A healthy and well-functioning animal produces more and better than an unhealthy one. But beyond that, the recording of monitoring data that accredited certification obliges you to do allows the farmer to implement on-site technological and operational improvements that not only have a direct and positive impact on animal welfare, but also lead to improved profitability and lower costs».

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The importance of the European Green Pact to maintain Animal Welfare

Sustainability is now part of our future. In 2019, the European Union adopted the Green Deal or European Green Pact with the aim of making Europe the first continent to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, in the words of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, «the time of man on the moon for Europe». In the words of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, «Europe’s time for man on the moon».

This commitment to a sustainable economic system is the only lifeline Europe is clinging to after the crisis brought on by the arrival of COVID-19.

Among the sustainable measures adopted is the «farm to fork» strategy, which focuses on improving current food systems towards more sustainable production to meet the needs of the population by 2050.

Farm to fork or science to fork?

The Farm to Fork strategy is designed from the point of view of both the consumer and the producer, and its importance lies in the fact that it puts these two elements at the centre of the approach. The main objective of this comprehensive strategy is to take up the challenge of producing and consuming food in a way that is fair and sustainable for the planet.

In an environmentally friendly production system such as this sustainable pact, respect for animals is a must. Among the concepts advocated are a broad review of animal welfare and protection legislation and the need to recognise the living conditions and fundamental rights of animals.

However, it is important to remember that the real mechanism that makes all these processes verified and contrasted is science. An animal controlled and monitored under quantifiable and demonstrable scientific parameters is a healthy and calm animal. In this way, if animal welfare is taken into account morally and ethically, there is a social responsibility and, in turn, optimum levels of food safety are achieved, as it has been demonstrated that protecting them in this sense can be an important factor in reducing the spread of diseases.

Animal welfare at the heart of sustainability

Sustainable economic development puts the international community in the spotlight when it comes to improving welfare, quality of life and expanding global freedom. Animal welfare has become part of this race for the survival of the planet. Sustainability and a truly efficient economic model depend on care and respect for our animals.

At the 18th World Meat Congress in 2010, the theme of global cooperation on livestock welfare was presented by Daniela Battaglia, Livestock Production Officer in the Animal Production and Health Division of FAO. During the meeting, Battaglia pointed out that animal welfare is directly related to such fundamental rights as the right to adequate food and nutrition, livelihoods, decent working conditions, and social justice in general; and to such common global goods as biodiversity and natural resources.

Today, the report «Animal Welfare at the Heart of Sustainability» by FAO and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection underlines the need for animal welfare to be a priority for sustainability, and recognises that animal production and animal welfare are inextricably linked to ethical, political, economic, environmental and social issues.

The Spanish beef interprofessionals, Provacuno, and the Spanish and Hungarian sheep and goat interprofessionals, Interovic and JTT, have believed this and that is why they wanted to develop quality standards that could be reliable and truly guarantee animal welfare as well as continuous improvement in this area. For these three interprofessionals, the question is not to «meet requirements or parameters» but to be able to advance every day, to improve measuring tools, to adapt facilities and to be able to have greater reliability that what is being done is correct and adequate with complete certainty.

All this has materialised through its «European Animal Welfare Commitment» and an ambitious promotion plan financed with European funds that will soon complete its first year of implementation for the promotion and dissemination of animal welfare in ruminants for meat production.

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Accredited certification, a key tool to avoid heat stress

Sudden changes in temperature are a serious hazard for both animals and humans, with significant health effects ranging from dehydration, cramps, syncope, arrhythmias and many other conditions that can even lead to death. After what has been the fourth hottest summer since 1950, and with heatwaves looking set to become more frequent, systems that can control temperature and prevent sudden changes are essential if animal welfare is to be guaranteed.

In this way, the accredited certifications in animal welfare promoted by the Spanish interprofessional organisations Interovic and Provacuno and the Hungarian JTT become a key management tool that can, among other aspects, combat heat stress in animals as they are based on scientific parameters and have registration systems that allow monitoring and, if necessary, introduce appropriate improvements in conditions.

Combating heat stress based on scientific rigour and continuous monitoring

Continuous improvement does not allow for one-off corrections, but requires a record of continuous measurements based on scientific criteria such as, for example, the measurement of humidity conditions, ventilation, CO2 levels, etc. These records of measurable, reproducible and scientifically based parameters are what allow farmers and technicians to improve the facilities and living conditions of farm animals.

«In the case of beef cattle, sheep and goats in Spain and Hungary, a farm with accredited animal welfare certification is obliged to keep a continuous and daily record of more than 80 parameters based on scientific criteria, including those that control the effect of temperature changes on the state of health and welfare of the animals», Tomás Rodríguez, director of Interovic.

For this reason, every day more and more farmers and farm technicians see the great advantages that the accredited certifications in animal welfare, promoted by the interprofessional organisations Provacuno, Interovic and JTT, can bring them. On the one hand, in terms of credibility and reliability for the consumer, as an ENAC-accredited body is the one that guarantees these records, and on the other hand, in terms of the continuous improvements in productivity and even profitability that the monitoring, control and traceability systems that accredited certifications provide them with.

«The monitoring of scientifically based parameters generates great peace of mind for the farmer who has the confidence that his animals are always in optimum condition and that he has a system that warns him in real time of any incident that may affect them,» adds Javier López, director of Provacuno.

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How to tell if an animal is completely healthy: the importance of the relationship between farmers and vets

Animals constantly manifest behaviours, postures or ways of relating to each other that tell us a lot about their physical and psychological state. Analysing and measuring these factors, as we mentioned in previous posts, is crucial in order to establish the highest standards of reliability in animal welfare on farms.

Thanks to the exhaustive analysis of the animal welfare parameters carried out by professional experts in the field, it will be possible:

  • Provide first aid to animals in need of it
  • Prevent them from suffering from diseases
  • Stop possible diseases in time

On farms committed to European animal welfare, the relationship between veterinarians and farmers is crucial. When the animals are resting peacefully in the enclosure or are exercising behaviours typical of their species, every piece of information is analysed and processed, always taking into account the strict European scientific parameters in terms of regulation.

In this sense, for example, the beef cattle interprofessional (Provacuno) and the Spanish and Hungarian sheep and goat interprofessional (Interovic and JTT) have developed quality references that contemplate and analyse more than 80 parameters, all of them criteria backed by science.

There are multiple indicators that show whether an animal is in an optimal state of welfare in terms of health. Just as an example we can list the following:

  1. Appearance: A healthy animal is alert and aware of its surroundings. It is active with its head held high and supported by all its limbs. When an animal separates from the group, the reason for its behaviour should be analysed and the case should be managed in the best way possible.
  2. Movement: Movement also says a lot about the animals. Simple factors such as how long they lie down and how often they eat during the day should be observed.
  3. Eyes: Bright eyes, with no tears in the corners, are a clear indicator of animal welfare.
  4. Ears: Ears are among the most restless joints in ruminants, along with the tail. If they move all the time, it means that the animal is attentive to all the stimuli around it, which is a positive sign of welfare. 
  5. Muzzle: In cows, good health is related to a moist, not dry, muzzle. In sheep and goats the opposite is true, the nose should be cold and dry.
  6. Mouth: The ruminant should not drip saliva. If the chewing is slow, there may be problems with the teeth.
  7. Breathing: During rest, you can tell if an animal is in good health by noticing its smooth and regular breathing. Sometimes movement and warm weather increase the rate of breathing, which is why it is so important to be able to analyse each factor.
  8. Ruminate: Sheep, goats and cattle ruminate for six to eight hours a day. Rumination is a good indicator of animal welfare in terms of behaviour.

It is important to understand that assessment and detection through some of these indicators must be rigorous and traceable and must be monitored and recorded. This is the only way to avoid making false diagnoses and exposing ruminants to subjective testimonies. Furthermore, measurement and control must be accompanied by an appropriate action plan in each case that is able to ensure adequate conditions in each case.

In this way, the study of behaviours, attitudes and physical factors will allow a control of those elements that may be negatively influencing the animal welfare of ruminants; their recording will allow their analysis and evaluation and the action plan will guarantee the taking of appropriate measures to eliminate risks and guarantee animal welfare.

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Animal love and its livestock origin

More than 10,000 years ago, primitive man was already practising animal husbandry. With the passage of time, this practice improved and managed to include great improvements in the quality of life of the animals. Such was the importance of animal husbandry that it became a key driver for agriculture and vice versa, as food scraps or food unfit for human consumption were destined for livestock.

Livestock farming, and thus livestock farmers, represent a great leap in history. With the use of these practices, society evolved towards today’s consumption systems, where sustainability and responsible practices with animals are an intrinsic part of the trade.

Today, along the above lines, livestock farmers are dedicated to caring for and raising livestock. It seems a simple task, but looking after the health and welfare of their animals requires time, sacrifice and effort. So much so, that in order to ensure their production and guarantee the welfare of their animals, they do not hesitate to sacrifice almost their entire lives to the sector.

Ensuring the highest level of animal welfare is an investment that ultimately involves costs, sacrifices and passion for the animals.

The workers dedicated to the care of ruminants during the breeding process know, observe and analyse them according to certain parameters (in this case those of the European Union, the most demanding in the world). Veterinarians and breeders are present throughout the animal’s life cycle, attending pregnancies, witnessing births and monitoring the condition of the offspring. It is a job in which there is no such thing as time, weekends or holidays, as the animals still need attention and care.

Thanks to the commitment to animal welfare that is increasingly present in the lives of Europeans, factors such as the facilities, feeding and drinking troughs, even the bedding where they lie and the proportions of the rearing space, are ensured and monitored at all times. At the same time, the progress and commitment to animal care of an entire sector has meant that today’s European production systems alone can guarantee animal welfare.

Whether the production is extensive or intensive, there are sufficient parameters and indicators to monitor the animals on a daily basis and guarantee that their lives have developed in accordance with the principle of the Five Freedoms and the commitments set out in the Decalogue «European Animal Welfare Commitment».

Because, at the end of the whole process, a single truth is imperatively defended: the commitment of an entire sector depends on the welfare of its animals. 

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Madrid, European meeting point for animal welfare

Animal welfare is a concern for European citizens and institutions, but above all for producers, scientists and technicians in the sector. On the other hand, there is a need for a meeting point where all the bodies involved in the animal welfare of ruminants for meat production at European level can debate and share knowledge and experience on this issue.

For this reason, on 14 November the Duques de Pastrana Auditorium  (Paseo de la Habana, 208) Madrid, will be the venue for the 1st Symposium on Animal Welfare in meat producing ruminants. The event will be a meeting point for the main decision-makers in the sector and the first event of its kind to be held in Europe.

This event is promoted by the Spanish beef interprofessionals (PROVACUNO) and the Spanish sheep and goat interprofessionals (INTEROVIC) and Hungarian (JTT) as part of the actions that will be held to promote animal welfare over the next 3 years.

In order to guarantee independence and scientific rigour, these three organisations have asked the Spanish Society for the Protection and Welfare of Animals (SEPROBA) to take on the technical secretariat, selection of speakers and organisation of this first event at European level.

The aim of this meeting is for scientists, technicians, producers, certifiers, livestock farmers and different members of the chain to share experiences, debate and analyse, from a scientific and technical point of view, the situation of animal welfare in the European Union.

In this first edition, the event will pay special attention to aspects of the application of legislative proposals in the field of animal welfare that affect the reality of livestock farming and the contribution of accredited certification systems as tools to provide full guarantees of objectivity in the assessment of animal welfare to all parties involved: livestock farmers, the distribution chain, consumers and Public Administrations.

The scientific committee, made up of six scientists and technicians with proven experience in this field, together with the technical secretariat, have been responsible for drawing up the programme for the Symposium and are working on reviewing all the scientific and technical communications that are being received for the event. During the symposium there will be a free presentation of these papers, which will deal with Mediterranean beef, sheep and goat meat production systems.

Finally, the meeting will also include the presentation of the results of the survey on animal welfare in production that SEPROBA has carried out with technicians from the sector.

With limited seating capacity, attendance is free of charge and free of charge, subject to prior registration at the following link.

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Conceptions about livestock farming

Following the animal welfare and animal protection issues of recent years and the regulations entered into law, a change of era is clearly taking place, namely in the direction of humane animal husbandry. Many people are happy to buy the products of manufacturers for whom animal welfare and animal protection are of primary importance. It is worth first separating the related concepts, which began to develop from the mid-60s.

Animal protection: animal protection requires the appropriate treatment of all animals, and prohibits harmful human behavior and aggressive actions towards them. It is a practical activity that arises from a person’s sense of responsibility and duty.

Animal welfare: the concept of animal welfare is closely linked to animal protection. These requirements apply to both private individuals and civil organizations and state bodies. It means a set of holding conditions. Satisfying the needs and demands of the given animal species, keeping them in optimal conditions, for example providing adequate food, fluids, space for movement and rest. Every opportunity must be given to the animal to express its natural behavior.

Animal cruelty: cruelty to animals can be realized in several ways. This includes not only intentional acts of violence, but also negligence, failure to provide a healthy environment, psychological harm in the form of terror, torture or coercion.

These concepts were not only created, but they continued to develop and continue to develop to this day. So when we talk about animal welfare, it cannot be considered a finished concept either, since as science progresses, we dig deeper and deeper, and we learn more and more about the needs of animals, and we are able to satisfy them at an increasingly higher level.

Let’s clear up some misconceptions:

About the free range:

In a survey conducted by Kométa in March 2022, nearly three-quarters (73%) of the respondents said that animal welfare can only be maintained in free-range systems, moreover, more than 9 out of ten (92%) believe that animal welfare is when animals are not kept in sheds and cages.

The word «free» really sounds very positive, it fits perfectly in a text context with the words «animal welfare» and «animal protection» and «nature», but unfortunately many people do not realize that this way of keeping animals can lead to stress and even to the death of the animal too.

Animals kept in this way are demanding: inclement weather, predators and parasites are all lurking for them as a source of danger. That is why the larger a farm is, the more difficult it is to meet the strict criteria and high investment costs.

The question of antibiotics:

In the aforementioned survey, almost all respondents (96%) said that animal welfare means that the animal is healthy, well-fed, and does not feel pain, fear, or anxiety. According to 94 percent, animal welfare includes gentle treatment and humane slaughter. At the same time, this contradicts the fact that according to 84% of the respondents, animal welfare means that animals do not receive antibiotics. The word antibiotic is often associated with negative image associations, not by chance, because the antibiotic entering the human body by eating animal meat or plants treated with its manure can be a source of danger for us. At the same time, the cases when it is necessary to use antibiotics can still be counted, specifically for animal protection and animal welfare reasons. After all, a sick animal not only suffers, but can also infect others. From January 28, 2023, veterinarians must submit data on the use of antibiotics for food-producing animals on a monthly basis.

The measures increased the demand for the introduction of antibiotic substitutes. These active ingredients are immune-boosting, health-preserving, digestive, antibacterial, and sometimes made of plant extracts.

Overall, it can be stated that the use of antibiotics and free-range farming among farm animals are popular topics today. At the same time, industry communications should not move in extreme and inconsistent directions, as this can often mislead consumers.


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What happens if an animal is treated with antibiotics?

Animals get it, but eventually it will be dangerous for humans

The use of antibiotics in livestock is so widespread that, despite the numerous restrictions introduced, it is estimated that even today only one-third of all the antibiotics in the world are administered to humans, and two-thirds are administered to animals.

These substances were used not only for the prevention and treatment of animal diseases, but also for the purpose of increasing yield and stimulating meat, milk and egg production. They were used intensively in the pig and poultry sectors. Previously, they tried to stimulate the growth of cattle with antibiotic preparations, which has been banned in the countries of the European Union since 2006, but is still a legal method in many other parts of the world.

This action is not only unethical for animals, but the antibiotics used in agriculture contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance by consuming foodstuffs of animal origin, thus weakening the effect of antibiotics developed for us in human health.

Unfortunately, the absorption of the above-mentioned preparations in the animals’ bodies is not complete: they are not always able to break down in such a way that a significant amount of them does not remain in the urine or faeces, which then ends up in the manure, which is then used worldwide to improve soil quality, both in ecological and sustainable farming. They are able to survive for a long time in vegetation that has been treated with water and manure containing antibiotics and drugs. Once inside the human body, their accumulation poses an unknown risk to human health.

In May 2016, a multidrug-resistant superbacterium was discovered in the body of an American woman, which is resistant to various drug treatments. The E. coli bacterium that entered the woman’s body and caused diarrhea was of animal origin, which was already resistant to the antibiotics prepared for us before entering the human body. According to an article published by Agrárá in May 2022, diseases caused by multiresistant bacteria may become the leading cause of death by 2050.

The «One Health» initiative states: The health of humans, animals and the environment is actually one and the same. The goal of the initiative is to halve the use of antibiotics by 2030.

Animals are stressed

It is no secret that certain antibiotics are used to preserve the health of animals whose high stress levels trigger certain diseases. Several studies confirm that the solution would not be this kind of prevention, but rather a calm environment and well-being-based husbandry technology. Antibacterial feeds and feed supplements that improve gut health can help.

Latest measures

Thanks to the measures already taken, between 2011 and 2018, the sale of antibiotics for the treatment of farm animals in Europe decreased by a third. However, the series of measures does not stop.

From January 8, 2022, the veterinarian must provide a new report on a monthly basis about the antibiotics used in farm animals kept for the purpose of food production. They must provide an annual report on the circulate of the products by March of each year. They must make this announcement through the Customer Profile System operated by Nébih. Within two years, from 2024, the EU data provision obligation will come into force, and the reports already submitted are the first step towards this. These measures contribute to the protection of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and public and animal health.

Veterinarians who serve a large number of livestock farms must develop an antibiotic use reduction plan for the given facility. NÉBIH publishes a guide on the minimum requirements for antibiotic treatment on its website to help prepare this. In all cases, the implementation of the plan must be supervised by a veterinarian. The procedure is effective from January 28, 2022.

From January 1, 2024, any prescription for a product containing antibiotic active ingredients can be issued by a veterinarian who has an official certificate to that effect. Veterinarians can receive this certificate upon completion of a specialized training course, which can be renewed every 5 years by participating in a new training course, otherwise the certificate will lose its validity.

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