Mixed animal vet Ruth Layton given award for her work championing farm animal welfare

21 September 2017

Ruth Layton was today (21 September) announced as the recipient of the British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) prestigious Chiron Award, in recognition of the distinctive contributions and achievements Ruth has made driving progress in farm animal welfare within the supply chains of some of the world’s most influential food brands. 

Ruth, who began her career as a mixed animal vet, is a cofounding director of international food chain sustainability business Benchmark Holdings. She uses her expansive knowledge of farm animal welfare and sustainability best practice to make a real difference to livestock farming systems.

Ruth graduated from the Royal Veterinary College and worked as a mixed veterinary practitioner for 17-years whilst sheep farming across the UK. After completing a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon (RCVS) Diploma in animal welfare science, ethics and law, she co-founded FAI Farms and later Benchmark holdings, where she is currently working as the head of the Sustainability Science division. Benchmark has grown to become an international biotechnology and sustainability business turning over in excess of £100 million and employing 900 people.

Through Benchmark’s FAI Farms, Ruth has driven progress in farm animal welfare within the supply chains of major food brands including McDonalds and Marks and Spencer. Her contributions include codeveloping FAI’s ‘3Es’ framework that continues to shape the economic, ethical and environmental policies of food brands in the sourcing of sustainable livestock products.

Ruth is renowned for her industry and community engagement and has held a number of committee and trustee positions. She served for many years on the UK’s Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), and is currently a trustee for the Food Ethics Council and the Farm Inspiration Trust, a charity offering activities for adults with learning disabilities on FAI’s working Farm in Oxford.

Ruth’s passion for food sustainability in both local and global contexts also led her to establishment of a trust fund - ‘Fund For Sankalpa’ - in 2015, through which she funds local food projects in the UK and microfinance projects of budding entrepreneurs in Africa. Through this fund she helped to establish FarmWel, an organisation that is currently advising the UK government on its post-Brexit agriculture strategy for a sustainable farming future. 

Ruth has published extensively on animal welfare and sustainability in the scientific literature, including the pivotal research paper ‘Breeding for better welfare: genetic goals for broiler chickens and their parents’ with Marian Dawkins, and co-authored The Future of Animal Farming: Renewing the Ancient Contract. 

On hearing that she was to receive the Chiron Award, Ruth commented: 

"I am truly honoured to receive this award from the BVA. It is recognition of the hard work, determination and bravery of the individuals I have worked with over the years to challenge the status quo in the food chain. There was a recognition of the urgent need to improve food production systems, particularly animal welfare, and I knew this could only be made the norm if we were to collaborate with some of the world’s biggest organisations. Thus we founded FAI Farms and the wider Benchmark Group and I’m proud to see the results in practice. The journey towards a sustainable food chain continues and I look forward to contributing in the years to come with a key focus on the shift from consumerism to citizenship.”

BVA Media Office