The GAWA initiative received initial funding from the Farm Animal Welfare Forum and the Tubney Trust. It is facilitated by the University of Bristol and The Royal Agricultural University.
To create an authentic global source of higher welfare products which will increase demand by improving the identification, availability and supply of higher welfare products
To establish a globally recognised network of higher welfare schemes from which authentic higher welfare products can be purchased
To share experience, knowledge, expertise and best practice
To develop animal welfare assurance systems and offer consultancy to support businesses to deliver on animal welfare pledges
The values of the alliance are collaboration, integrity, scientific evidence and animal welfare advancement.
How we evolved
In 2017 an application for funding was submitted to the Farm Animal Welfare Forum by Dr Siobhan Mullen, Professor David Main and Dr Jessica Stokes. The proposal was to initiate collaboration between higher welfare schemes that would work together to have a global impact on animal welfare by promoting international trade in higher welfare products.
The collaboration would work to unleash the market potential and demand for higher welfare products in the food chain and assist the food industry to recognise which schemes provide a credible and robust assurance of compliance with higher welfare standards.
Drs Mullen, Main and Stokes were instrumental in setting up the Assurewel Project to improve animal welfare through outcome assessment. This project had already established an active international forum for the schemes that would be the initial stakeholders in GAWA. They already had an in-depth knowledge, mutual respect and recognition of each others’ strengths and weaknesses, standards and a common desire to improve animal welfare and make a difference to the treatment of farmed animals worldwide.
The GAWA framework focuses on validating the authenticity of higher welfare standards using an evidence-based approach, as well as the effectiveness of a programme or scheme’s implementation of these standards.
What animals want as well as what they need is central to the alliance’s ethos and as such, resource requirements on a farm, which provide animals with increasing good life opportunities (positive welfare), are being developed.
The alliance recognises that animal welfare programmes and schemes in different countries are at different places of higher welfare, depending on the species, scope and reach they have or are developing; therefore, the higher welfare frameworks, whilst globally-unifying, must be locally applicable. The framework criteria for higher welfare will be dynamic so that new scientific knowledge, innovation and technology can be incorporated.
Membership to GAWA is based on active participation to achieve and communicate higher welfare recognition; to include best practice and benchmarking against the framework and inspire and encourage other programmes/schemes to join. Continuous improvement and fostering innovation in animal welfare is central to the alliance’s mission.
To encourage inclusion and continuous improvement, different engagement levels will be set up according to where the programme/scheme sits within the framework e.g. full higher welfare membership versus working towards higher welfare. To further demonstrate authenticity, transparency and value, the alliance will be clear about what isn’t higher welfare or working towards higher welfare, and why not (i.e. intensive, barren, indoor, restrictive environments).
GAWA also aims to validate purchasing decisions of food businesses by providing higher welfare authenticity to influence buyers.