An original research article on Swedish dairy farmers’ perceptions of animal welfare inspections was published in Frontiers in Animal Science on 2nd December 2022. This study centered on perceptions of official animal welfare inspections and private audits, both separately and in relation to each other, and examined associated factors that could potentially influence their perceptions.
In relation to official animal welfare inspections, the following points were among the findings made:
- Most farmers (65%) were dissatisfied with having both official inspections and private audits related to quality assurance.
- Being knowledgeable about cows and dairy farming were seen as the most important characteristics of an animal welfare inspector (63%). The second most important trait (39%) was the inspector being easy to work with and able to make flexible assessments provided the animals are doing well, while the third most important (37%) was that the inspector makes uniform assessments between farms and shows understanding that minor deficiencies can arise.
- Age, gender, region of residence, education level, working experience, and physical health status showed no association with the farmers’ perceptions of their latest inspection. The only demographic factor that seemed to be of some relevance was the mental health and wellbeing of farmers.
- 54% of respondents stated that they experienced worry prior to inspections. The main reason for being worried was the risk of financial consequences (i.e., expensive non-compliance corrections or deductions from EU subsidies), followed by the identity of the inspector (i.e., a knowledgeable inspector or a zealous inspector searching for faults), the feeling of uncertainty regarding the inspection outcome, and the feeling of powerlessness (i.e., the inspectors have the power to make far-reaching decisions on the farmer’s business).
- 53% of the farmers surveyed did not make any special preparations prior to an inspection.
- Farmers had a more negative perception of inspection if the inspector was a younger woman.
- Whether an inspection was pre-announced was significantly associated with farmers’ perceptions of inspections, with a more positive experience of the inspection if it was announced beforehand.
- The reason for the inspection was also significantly associated with farmers’ perceptions – it mattered whether the inspection was a planned routine inspection, an inspection based on complaints from the public, or an extra inspection due to previous non-compliances, or if the reason was unclear to the respondent.
- Most farmers did not think that inspections had led to an improvement in animal welfare on their farm.
- Approximately half of the farmers believed that the written inspection report did not reflect what had been said during the inspection, i.e., new non-compliances that were not mentioned to them verbally by the inspector were perceived to be stated in the report, while 38% stated that what was written in the report corresponded well with what was said during the inspection. This was significantly associated with the experience of inspections, where if the farmer thought that nothing new had been added in the written report than communicated orally during the visit, this was related to a more positive experience.
- Most farmers considered it reasonable to have an animal welfare inspection at least every three years.
Source: Front. Anim. Sci., 02 December 2022, Sec. Animal Welfare and Policy