Farmed Animal Welfare Group Standards in mainland China

May 12, 2021Zihao Yu

Overview of the standards in mainland China

Although there is no legislation on animal welfare in mainland China, the China Association for Standardization (CAS) has developed several group standards for “farm animal welfare requirements”.

According to the Standardization Law of the People's Republic of China, standards include national standards, industry standards, local standards, group standards, and corporate standards. National standards are divided into mandatory standards and recommended standards, while industry standards and local standards are recommended standards. (Article 2.2) The group standards are adopted by the agreement of the members of the group or voluntarily adopted by the society according to the regulations. (Article 18.1)

On the website of ICCAW, the farmed animal welfare standards can be found for pigs, mutton sheep, cashmere goats, beef cattle, egg-laying hen, meat-type chicken, and waterfowl.

On the website of CAS, the farmed animal welfare standards can be found for pigs, mutton sheep, beef cattle, egg-laying hen, broilers, and waterfowl. The cashmere goats standards cannot be found.

Besides, there are two industry standards for bovine (Protocol of Animal Welfare for Bovine during Breeding, Transport, and Slaughter, SN/T 3774-2014) and horse (Protocol of Animal Welfare for Horses during Breeding, Transport, and Slaughter, SN/T 4102-2015). The industry standards also cover experimental animal and non-human primates, imported marine mammals, as well as zoo management. The industry standards for Sanitary Control on Breeding Fowl Farms include the welfare of chickens.

There are no national standards for farmed animals. There are national standards for animal welfare for laboratory animals and medical devices. The animal welfare requirement of slaughtering is in the process of calling for public opinion.

There are local standards on Welfare Slaughter of Broilers and Meat Ducks and Methods of Welfare Assessment for Rearing Environment of Pigs, Laying Hens, and Broilers (Shandong Province), and Regulations for Welfare Feeding of Dairy Cows (Jiangsu Province).

(There might be other standards including provisions for farmed animal welfare).

"Sheep" by mhaller1979 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Farmed animal welfare standards by CAPIAC

The main drafting organization for the group standards of farm animal welfare is the International Cooperation Committee of Animal Welfare (ICCAW). ICCAW is affiliated with China Association for the Promotion of International Agricultural Cooperation (CAPIAC). It is a non-profit organization approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and registered at the Ministry of Civil Affairs in June 2013.

Other drafting organizations include the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), and Institute of Animal Sciences of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), as well as the related producers.

On the website of ICCAW, the farmed animal welfare standards can be found for pigs, mutton sheep, cashmere goats, beef cattle, egg-laying hen, meat-type chicken, and waterfowl. The welfare standards for cashmere goats and waterfowl are issued by the China Association for the Promotion of International Agricultural Cooperation (CAPIAC). Other standards are issued by the China Association for Standardization (CAS). (The standards for waterfowl cannot be found on the English sites of ICCAW, and the standards are listed on the Chinese site but the document is not attached).

According to the standards, the “farm animal” refers to “animals being bred or reared on farms or similar circumstances for food, hair, skin, fur processing or other purposes,” and “farm animal welfare” refers to “animals must be properly cared during rearing, transporting and slaughtering to protect them from fear, distress, pain, and injury.” The standards also provide the definitions for “Environmental Enrichment,” “Abnormal Behavior,” and “Humane slaughter,” etc.

The Farm Animal Welfare Requirements series are based upon the “Five Freedoms” as the five fundamental principles in the introduction part of the standards. The term “freedom” is only included in some of the English versions, the term used in Chinese versions is “five fundamental principles of animal welfare.”

The five fundamental principles are:

  • Provide animals with clean drinking water and feed needed for keeping their health so as to protect them from hunger and thirst;

  • Provide adequate shelter and comfortable habitat for animals to protect them from discomfort;

  • Carry out disease prevention for animals and implement timely diagnosis and treatment for sick animals so as to protect them from pain and injury;

  • Ensure that animals have the conditions and disposal modes to avoid psychological pain so that they are protected from fear and mental pain;

  • Provide adequate space, appropriate facilities, and companions for animals so that they can freely express their normal behavior.

"Close-up of Hand Feeding on Tree Trunk" by Leah Kelley from Pexels

Pigs (CAS 235-2014)

The Standard sets the requirement on welfare-friendly pig production, transportation, slaughtering, and processing. The Standard is applicable to the management of the whole process of pig husbandry, transportation, slaughtering, and processing. (Article 1)

Read the full article of the standard here.

Mutton sheep (T/CAS 242-2015)

The Standard sets welfare requirements on mutton sheep rearing, shearing (fleece or cashmere), transport, slaughter, and processing. The Standard is applicable to the animal welfare management of the whole process of mutton sheep rearing, shearing (fleece or cashmere), transport, slaughter, and processing. (Article 1)

Read the full article of the standard here.

Cashmere goats (T/CAI 003-2020)

This standard specifies the terms and definitions of welfare breeding of cashmere goats, feeding and drinking water, breeding environment, breeding management, health, fleece extraction (shearing and carding), transportation and transfer, humane slaughter, and traceability and recording. This standard applies to the animal welfare management of large-scale cashmere goat farms and cashmere goat transportation, slaughtering, and processing in China, and other cashmere goat farmers can refer to and implement it. (Article 1)

Read the full article of the standard here.

Beef cattle (CAS 238-2014)

The Standard sets welfare requirements on beef cattle production, transportation, slaughtering, and processing. The Standard is applicable to the management of the whole process of beef cattle production, transportation, slaughtering, and processing. (Article 1)

Read the full article of the standard here.

Egg-laying hen (T/CAS 269-2017)

This standard specifies the terms and definitions of laying hen welfare, chicks, feeding and drinking water, farming environment, feeding management, health plan, transport, slaughtering and record, and traceability. This standard applies to the animal welfare management of the whole process of farming, transportation, and slaughtering of laying hens. (Article 1)

Read the full article of the standard here.

The animal welfare standard for non-caged laying hens was open for public comments from March 26th to April 26th, 2021. Read the draft here.

Broilers (meat-type chicken) (T/CAS 267-2017)

This standard specifies the terms and definitions of meat-type chicken welfare, chicks, feeding and drinking water, farming environment, feeding management, health plan, transport, slaughtering, and record and traceability. This standard applies to the animal welfare management of the whole process of farming, transportation, and slaughtering of meat-type chicken. (Article 1)

Read the full article of the standard here.

Waterfowl (T/CAI 001—2019)

This standard specifies the terms and definitions of waterfowl (duck, goose, and muscovy) animal welfare. It stipulates the basic requirements for the source of chicks, feeding and drinking water, breeding environment, breeding management, health, transportation, humane slaughter, fleece fetching, processing, recording, and traceability. This standard applies to animal welfare management in the whole process of waterfowl breeding, transportation, slaughtering, fleece fetching, and processing. (Article 1)

Read the full article of the standard here.

"L1009108 Head'm up Mov'm out" by Dai Luo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Commentary

The group standards provide detailed standards of animal welfare for pigs, mutton sheep, cashmere goats, beef cattle, egg-laying hen, meat-type chicken, and waterfowl, but there is nothing about the implementation mechanism of the standards in these documents. The group standards are recommended standards that are voluntarily adopted by society. In other words, these standards have no effect on implementation. These standards are not supported by any certification, labeling, evaluation mechanisms, and no laws for animal welfare or farmed animal welfare. These standards will have an effect when there are more implementation and guarantee mechanisms published in the future referring to these standards or the higher laws for animal welfare are issued.


For the drafting organizations, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) are international NPOs, and ICCAW of CAPIAC and the IAS of CAAS are governmental NPOs in mainland China. Other drafting organizations are the producers. There is no NGO in China that participated in the drafting process at all.

The nature of these welfare standards could be a measure that the Chinese government wants to use to adopt the international animal welfare standards for the industry in mainland China only in the literal sense. The recommendatory declarative group standards are not binding in mainland China, but they are established for the purposes of meeting the basic requirements of international cooperation in global trade, import, and export. However, they can be a good starting point to issue potential animal welfare laws for general animals and farmed animals.

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