Rags to riches

Posted on September 09, 2015 by Sean Wensley

H&M shop frontI don’t read Vogue enough to know whether it commonly carries articles on animal welfare, but I suspect not. That’s why today’s – “H&M makes new animal welfare commitment” - jumped out. The Swedish apparel giant has partnered with Humane Society International to improve animal welfare across its supply chain.

The move is significant as it is the latest example of big business showing leadership on animal welfare and responding to rising consumer interest. It follows the likes of McDonalds’ 2013 announcement that all pork served in its restaurants would be Freedom Food assured (now RSPCA Assured), and other public commitments last year from Unilever, Nestle and Heinz.

Legislation should ensure minimum acceptable animal welfare standards, but is often slow to achieve and modest in ambition. When consumers, and big business acting on behalf of consumers, implement progressive purchasing policies their effects can be wide-ranging and rapid. Cynics may say that such companies are simply protecting their backs in an age of exposes. Others may interpret the moves as a welcome commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, while others will see them as the responses of companies who research and understand their customers’ concerns. Whatever the motivations, the humane treatment of animals is rising up the corporate agenda.

BVA Congress to explore growing commercial interest in animal welfare

It’s in this context of growing societal concern for animal welfare that BVA is currently developing its animal welfare strategy, in consultation with our committees, members, BVA specialist divisions and a range of external stakeholders. What’s the role of the veterinary profession in a society that wants to know and do more to improve animal welfare? Should we help deliver what “society” decides? Should we initiate debates? Should we provide our knowledge and value judgements on how animals are used and how their welfare is impacted – for better and worse - by common practices?

Each is important, and in recognition of the role increasingly played by big business we are fortunate to have Jemima Jewell, Head of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming, speaking at this year’s BVA Congress at London Vet Show (LVS), about the Business Benchmark in Farm Animal Welfare. This annual report is shining a light on those companies who are evolving their animal welfare standards for public and investor benefit. And, of course, vets are integral to developing and delivering these high standards, so we are equally fortunate to have Richard Vecqueray joining Jemima. Richard is Managing Director at Evidence Based Veterinary Consultancy (EBVC).

We know that animal welfare is a top priority of BVA members, so it would be great to have a packed hall. The topical issues sessions at BVA Congress count as CPD and you don’t have to be a BVA member to drop in to BVA Congress from the LVS. It would be great to see you there.


London Vet show takes place at Olympia, London on 19 and 20 November. BVA members get 15% off the lowest advertised ticket price.

Sean Wensley

Written by Sean Wensley

BVA President from September 2015 to September 2016

Sean is Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Communication and Education at PDSA, based in Northern Ireland. He is also an Honorary Lecturer in animal welfare at the University of Nottingham.