Initiative Tierwohl under fire – our respondes

7. May 2020
Bild Kritik Initiative Tierwohl

The Initiative Tierwohl has repeatedly come under fire since its inception. We respond to the most frequently expressed, highly persistent accusations here.

Criticism on criteria: The Initiative Tierwohl criteria are too weak to actually improve animal welfare

The Initiative Tierwohl (ITW) is pursuing an evolutionary approach. This means that the ITW looks at where many farmers are today and what the potential next steps towards better animal welfare could be from that point. As such, it enables a large number of farmers to improve animal welfare for a large number of animals. The ITW criteria have been defined by scientists, experts and practitioners so that they facilitate a broad impact. Animal welfare programmes that pursue a revolutionary approach, i.e. completely restructuring farms according to a defined vision, also play an important role. These programmes are carving out a niche existence for themselves, however, because only a handful of farmers can meet their criteria straight away and the consumers willing to pay the corresponding premium are in a minority. The Initiative Tierwohl proposes an effective solution for achieving a certain amount of improvement for a large number of animals, while remaining practicable for livestock owners and affordable for consumers.

Criticism on docking, piglet castration and antibiotic use: Why is this allowed under the Initiative Tierwohl?

We have discussed the topic of docking in depth with experts and welfarists. However, we at the Initiative Tierwohl (ITW) cannot make any stipulations on docking unless reliable livestock farming requirements are introduced, which would render docking redundant across the board. It is a similar situation with piglet castration: participants in the ITW comply with the relevant legal requirements in force since 2019. With regard to antibiotic use, renouncing them completely would not always be in the best interests of animals. After all, sick animals must be treated. We encourage farmers to use antibiotics responsibly – “as much as necessary and as little as possible” – by making it mandatory for them to participate in antibiotics monitoring through the QS inspection scheme.

Criticism on limited participants: Not all farmers can take part

This particular criticism of the Initiative Tierwohl (ITW) is luckily old hat. Initially, it was indeed the case that not all farmers interested in the ITW could take part. Because so many wanted to participate, there simply wasn’t enough money to go around. Since then, things have thankfully changed. Participating retailers have significantly increased their financial contributions, and now almost all farmers can be part of the ITW if they want to. From 2021, the scheme will permanently switch to being market price financed. At that point, even more farms will be able to join us at any time.

Criticism on inspections: Farm examinations are not strict enough

The Initiative Tierwohl (ITW) inspects participating farms very closely. We examine each participating farm twice a year. Once completely unannounced and once with a maximum of 24 hours’ notice. In specific circumstances and cases of suspicion, an audit of special purpose may also take place. In the first five years of the ITW, we conducted over 40,000 audits on farms. But the quantity of inspections is not the only remarkable feature of the system. Examinations usually last for several hours and are conducted with great care by trained experts who have extensive professional experience. The audit is only passed if all the requirements have been implemented. If a farm does not pass our inspection and is in breach of the requirements, it is consequently sanctioned. This can lead to exclusion from the ITW or reimbursement of payments already received.

Criticism on seal chaos: The ITW seal is just one more in a jungle of labels and seals

Of course, lots of different labels exist, but only a few provide information on animal welfare aspects, and of those, only the ITW seal is distributed widely. As such, the majority of consumers are not conscious of a “label jungle” as such. Incidentally, our Haltunsform-programme, launched in April 2019, also helps consumers to navigate the different options.

Criticism on being a front: The Initiative Tierwohl is just a vanity project for food retailers and the meat industry

In the first five years, retailers invested over half a billion euros in improving animal welfare via the Initiative Tierwohl (ITW). A quarter of all production pigs and around 70 percent of German poultry benefit from the ITW. Anyone who believes the ITW is a “pure vanity project” in view of these facts is under a misconception.

Criticism on misleading consumers: The notice included on meat packaging for the Initiative Tierwohl is misleading to consumers

Our yellow Initiative Tierwohl (ITW) seal it very clear that a meat product originates from a participating farm. Sometimes, packaging may also include this notice:

LEH Siegel nichtnämliche Ware

This was used by participating retailers before the seal was introduced in April 2018 to indicate their involvement. It has been completely replaced by the yellow ITW seal as of 2021.

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