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THERE is still considerable debate about the concept of animal welfare and how it can be better assessed and monitored from an animal perspective. Farm assessment should be central to this and farm assessors need to ensure that animal welfare legislation and standards are enforced and appropriately monitored at the farm level. Moreover, Roe and others (2011) argue that ‘farm assessment is an increasingly valuable component of the agri-food industry for creating quality-driven food markets’; however, any increasing demand for animal welfare friendly products depends on ‘the success and sustainability of the assessment framework to maintain trust and integrity in the supply chains’.
Farm assurance schemes are generally recognised as the key tool or mechanism for assessing on-farm animal welfare (Veissier and others 2008, Roe and others 2011). Designed to deliver specific details of farm production and conditions, they (should) assure consumers, not only about the quality of the end product, but that a set of established welfare standards, regulations and codes of practice is effectively implemented (FAWC 2005). Whereas farmers, who usually find themselves squeezed between government regulations and the market, perceive the schemes as a ‘necessary evil’ (Hubbard and others 2007), retailers regard them as their own ‘gate-keeping’ device for food quality and safety (Veissier and others 2008). Consumers also …