Sustainable animal agriculture

BVA position on UK sustainable animal agriculture

Sustainable animal agriculture can be defined as animal agriculture* carried out in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability to meet the needs of the future. Sustainable animal agriculture should be undertaken in a way that is environmentally, ethically and economically acceptable for consumers, producers and wider society.

The veterinary profession has a key role to play in advancing the roles and status of animals within sustainable animal agriculture and ensuring that the highest standards of health and welfare for production animals are maintained and recognised as a key sustainability objective.

*Where animal agriculture includes aquaculture and gamebirds.

As part of this, animal health and welfare should not be unnecessarily compromised to address human need and in order to be considered sustainable, agricultural systems must work towards the positive health and welfare of all farmed animals raised within them.

Our specific recommendations to enable the veterinary profession and other key stakeholders to contribute to the sustainable animal agriculture agenda centre on eight areas:

  • Animal health and welfare as a key sustainability objective
  • Sustainable resource management to protect and conserve species, habitats and biodiversity
  • The role of the veterinary profession from farm to fork
  • Welfare outcome assessment, including at slaughter
  • Emerging trends: breeding, technology and innovation
  • Innovative whole farm management systems to deliver both environmental and animal health and welfare public goods
  • Alternative sources of protein
  • Consumers and sustainable consumption of animal-derived products

Read the BVA position on UK sustainable animal agriculture in full (354 KB PDF)

Read the BVA position on UK sustainable animal agriculture – Executive summary (178 KB PDF)

Sustainable consumption - Eating less and better

BVA is promoting the benefits of sustainable consumption and the concept of “less and better”.

Eating “less and better” sees some citizens reduce consumption of animal derived products, whilst maintaining proportional spend on high animal health and welfare products.

To help consumers make purchasing choices that promote high animal health and welfare and align with their own ethical and budgetary priorities BVA has produced:

These resources form part of the BVA #ChooseAssured campaign. We want to encourage the veterinary profession and the wider public to #ChooseAssured by purchasing animal-derived products that are farm assured. Through the campaign we hope to raise awareness of the great work of the UK’s farm assurance schemes and the crucial work of vets within the schemes to safeguard high animal health and welfare.

Sustainability and the veterinary profession action plan

89% of vets told us that they think the veterinary profession should play a more active role in the sustainability agenda .

As an evidence-based, scientific profession there are a multitude of ways that vets can contribute to the sustainable animal agriculture agenda.

In the BVA sustainability and the veterinary profession action plan, BVA sets out how vets can contribute to sustainable animal agriculture at individual, practice and association levels. We’d encourage all vets, whatever their area of work, to take a look and see what positive influences you could make with just a few simple actions.


  • Creating farm health and welfare plans to prevent and control disease, increasing efficiency and welfare
  • Using benchmarking tools to monitor and reduce, for example, lameness and antibiotic use
  • Advising on and promoting higher welfare systems at times of farm investment, such as building redesign
  • Always taking a “3Rs” (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) approach when advising on mutilations – aiming to prevent the need for procedures and using modern analgesia protocols when the procedures are absolutely necessary
  • Considering eating “less and better” by reducing consumption of meat while maintaining proportional spend so that this spend is directed towards higher health and welfare products.
  • Promoting the value of farm assurance schemes. The BVA position on farm assurance schemes and the BVA #ChooseAssured: UK farm assurance schemes infographic can be used as reference tools when talking to clients or other members of the public about the value of farm assurance schemes and how they can choose ethical and sustainable animal food products.
  • Upholding existing legislation with regard to protecting public health (the prevention of zoonotic disease), food safety and food hygiene and reporting and monitoring food chain information.
  • Safeguarding and promoting animal welfare at slaughter and welfare during transport in line with existing legislation


  • Creating practice policies on mutilations based on the “3Rs” (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) and modern analgesia protocols
  • Distributing educational materials (eg. The BVA position on farm assurance schemes and BVA #ChooseAssured: UK farm assurance schemes infographic to help clients make informed and ethical food choices (NB this can be undertaken by all practices, eg. companion and equine, as well as farm practices)
  • Creating and communicating a practice food procurement policy, to be used, for example, when providing animal-derived food to hospitalised patients, or when selecting venues for staff meetings and gatherings. The BVA food procurement policy (122 KB PDF), incorporating sustainability of harvest, animal health and welfare, fair conditions for producers and food miles, could be adopted for this purpose
  • Offering visits to local politicians and key opinion leaders, to discuss the challenges of future animal agriculture and to advocate the best interests of animals when considering solutions


  • Raising awareness of the challenges facing the global food system, providing thought leadership, opportunities for informed debate and consistently advocating the importance of animal health and welfare as a sustainable development goal
  • Considering the interests of all stakeholders when developing policy related to animal agriculture and ensuring that primary consideration and weight is given to the welfare interests of animals
  • Promoting the practical experience, scientific expertise and ethical reasoning abilities of veterinary surgeons to policy makers involved with the future of animal farming
  • Collaboratively developing policy on welfare problems affecting farmed animals, as mandated by the BVA Animal Welfare Strategy: Vets speaking up for animal welfare
  • Developing and signposting evidence-based information to citizens on farm assurance schemes, to enable them to make informed, sustainable and more ethical purchases