Animal welfare is not only linked to good health and the avoidance of suffering but is also a consequence of the environmental context in which animals live and the welfare of the people who care for them.
These are the principles underpinning the one welfare approach, which inspires european ppilow project, presented at the terra madre 2022.
For more than two years, technicians, farmers, and consumer groups have been working to find new solutions to improve the welfare of pigs and poultry raised outdoors, on organic farms, or on “low-input” farms, i.e., farms that produce many of the raw materials for their animal feed themselves.
The PPILOW project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program aims to help these unconventional farming systems improve and solve various welfare problems, which may be similar to those of conventional systems (e.g. beak trimming in laying hens, killing of male day-old chicks and castration of male piglets) or more specific to these systems (exposure to outdoor health threats, survival of piglets, etc.).
The 2022 edition of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, in Turin proved to be the perfect stage to tell the first results of the project through concrete experiences of some of the partners.
During the conference Pigs and Chickens: How to Improve Animal Welfare? various experts, producers and professionals in the field were able to meet and discuss the topic, presenting concrete examples of the conclusions that some of the farmers, who joined the project, were able to draw after two years of activity.
“The welfare of animals,” explained Martina Re, representative of Aiab, SSSA (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa) and moderator of the meeting, “is not separate from the welfare of the breeders who take care of them and the humans who consume their products, and it cannot be separated from the health of the ecosystem. These three areas are interconnected as One Welfare. Through the Ppilow project we therefore want to make an interdisciplinary contribution, with strong cooperative experience and unique expertise in social science, economics, farm animal science, multi-criteria analysis and field practices.”
The livestock farming that the project partners envision for the future brings together land, water, animals, herders, farmers, and citizens and outlines a path toward a different way of farming and toward a new value that we all must place on food and, more than ever, on all those products that come from animals (meat, milk, cheese, eggs, honey, wool).
TWO TYPES OF ANIMAL FARMING
“Animal welfare is a prerequisite for animal husbandry, but it is far from simple,” explained Cesare Castellini, professor at the University of Perugia. “For example, in our studies we have distinguished between two major families of animals, namely animals from intensive farms and animals that are raised outdoors. This sounds like a trivial distinction, but it is not: depending on how much the animals can move, what they can eat, and how much their natural needs are respected, welfare may be more or less adequate, and the animals themselves have different capacities and health conditions. There are environmental, economic, and ethical issues behind these conditions, and by following each of these issues the impact of animal husbandry can really change.”
Bringing practical experience to bear on this is Jacopo Goracci, contact person for Tenuta di Paganico and breeder of Cinta Senese pigs.
“Of the 1500 hectares of the Estate, as many as 1100 are woodland. Free-range farming based on grazing, the fundamental goal for all of us, and organic certification, obtained more than 15 years ago, form the basis for all our work. Everything is important, from grazing to food. But one cannot address the issue of welfare without also properly addressing the most critical phase: the moment of slaughter. This is a particularly delicate phase, which begins as early as when the animals are loaded and continues for the time it takes to transport them to the slaughterhouse. Thanks to the project, the Tenuta di Paganico has obtained temporary authorization from the local health authority, with which it has established a fruitful collaboration, to use a mobile structure: should the data confirm the effectiveness of the on-farm slaughtering technique, authorization for on-farm slaughtering will be requested as a business practice from the Ministry of Health. Since the mobile facility is easy to transport, it could also be used by several farmers in the same district, which would be beneficial for enhancing the competitiveness of animal husbandry in marginal territories.”
Free range chickens of the Bianca di Saluzzo and Bionda Piemontese breeds.
ANIMAL WELFARE AND ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY ARE CLOSELY INTERCONNECTED.
“It should not be forgotten,” recalls Achille Schiavone of the University of Turin, “that animal welfare must also reflect the reality of small-scale producers, who are often the ones who safeguard breeds and their welfare. Thanks to the Ppilow project, we were able to give the right tools to these small-scale breeders so that they could also enhance the genetics of the animals themselves, separating the breeds while still giving them adequate space to live and giving them males of the Bianca di Saluzzo and Bionda Piemontese breeds so that they can continue to breed them in purity.”
“Cascina Losetta,” recounted Ferdinando Della Peruta, Cascina Losetta (Saluzzo White Hen Presidium), “is a small production company in the Pinerolo area that raises poultry with respect for animal welfare and in the strictest free-range farming protocol. The results of our sustainable breeding practices have allowed us an excellent evaluation of the breeds we have decided to raise, suitable for the environment in which we live and with the possibility of practicing sustainable breeding also for the surrounding environment.”
Finally, Marcello Volanti, a veterinarian and consultant for EcorNaturasì, concluded the meeting by recounting the experience of Garda Eggs, a small group of small-scale breeders of laying hens in the mountainous area around Lake Garda.
“Animal welfare is fundamental, in every respect,” concluded Volanti, “but it is also important not to lose sight of how much having a short supply chain often means great sacrifices for farmers. That is why we must never forget that animal welfare is also producer welfare, and that doing it in a sustainable way is possible.”
Thanks to the Ppilow project, a playful-educational path was developed at Terra Madre 2022 to discover the transformations to which humans have subjected chickens for market needs. To learn more, you can download the insights and panels displayed at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2022 (ITALIAN and ENGLISH) here.
Terra madre salone del gusto is in Parco Dora, Turin, from September 22-26, 2022, with over 600 exhibitors and a series of workshops, conferences and tastings that show how we can regenerate our planet through food.