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Since 2010, when DEFRA first published the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes, it has been widely available to the industry and adhered to by many a game farmer. However, until now, this code of practice has never before been under the scrutiny of an external audit. The British Game Alliance (BGA) has now created the solution.
Alan Beynon, a veterinarian and founder of St David’s Game Bird Services, along with Lloyds Register (Acoura) and the BGA have together created an audit schedule that allows a modern game rearing business to demonstrate full compliance with the code. The BGA assured scheme and audit process has been supported by the Game Farmers’ Association (GFA) and many other stakeholders as a positive step forward for the industry.
The new audit schedule has many benefits for all aspects of the game bird industry, but predominantly, and perhaps the leading benefit, is that it enables full traceability of the meat from egg right through to the shoot, and ultimately the consumer product.
Part of the scheme incorporates an “animal passport” that creates a history for the poult from parent flock, through to egg, chick and rearing so the gamekeeper has access to all clinical records and medication history associated with the bird prior to delivery. This process is now common place in the poultry industry and many farmers will not accept birds unless there is a detailed paperwork history accompanying them on delivery. We are all quite aware that things don’t go well all the time, however forewarned is forearmed, and the gamekeeper can ask for advice from their veterinarian to minimise the impact of transfer of poults that have had a clinical issue.
Thirdly, the audit process demonstrates to the public, opponents and the wider sector that the industry is accountable, vigilant and adhering to the code of practice that has been recommended by DEFRA – which until now, has been hard to prove with the absence of an approved audit process in place.
Alan Beynon of St David’s Game Bird Services said of the scheme, “This is a very exciting opportunity for the Game Industry to show full compliance through external audit from a very reputable audit business. It creates full traceability to the shoot and facilitates the sale of the meat to major retailers who now demand this.”
This process of external audit to be compliant with the code will allow game farmers to become approved by the BGA and provides assurance to the gamekeeper that they comply with the basic welfare principles required. In turn, it is hoped that the introduction of the audit process will lend itself to the overarching aim of reducing antibiotic usage within the industry which is a high priority on the governments’ agenda.
Following on from the successful launch of the audit process, Alan Beynon said that the BGA are now working on a scheme to monitor disease in the industry. Focusing its efforts initially on mycoplasma testing, the BGA hope that soon the poults from their assured game farms will also have passed a process of testing for basic diseases.
This represents a major commercial advantage for game farmers that adopt these principles going forwards, and in turn creates transparency and assurance for the game keeper that the stock they purchase are both compliant with the welfare code and have a history of what happened during the rearing process.
Alan Beynon BVM&S MRCVS
Director, St David’s Game Bird Services