ANIMAL welfare is being treated as a priority across UK livestock markets, a new survey has found.

Conducted by the Humane Slaughter Association, the independent survey ‘Livestock Markets 200 Years On’ aimed to provide a snapshot of animal welfare standards at UK livestock markets by evaluating the current provisions in place at 24 markets across England and Wales. It was commissioned by the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association.

Results were compared to a similar Defra-funded study of 24 livestock markets by the HSA and the Royal Veterinary College between 2005 and 2007, to track improvement.

The survey reported that all the markets which took part were members of the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme and were working to an animal welfare policy.

It also highlighted the improvements in management procedures, training, handling equipment and infrastructure and dealing with emergency situations such as escapees and injured or infirm animals in comparison to the Defra-funded study.

There was a a 64 per cent increase in protection from jumping injuries for adult cattle in unloading pens, and 57 per cent for sheep in comparison to the 2005-7 figures. Similarly, protection increased at gateways (21 per cent cattle and 29 per cent sheep) and with general penning, with a 32 per cent increase with adult cattle.

Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the LAA said: “This study demonstrates the high priority given to both animal welfare, but also the safety and security of staff and visitors to the livestock market.

“At a time when the livestock industry is facing false and misleading claims in terms of sustainability, traceability and welfare, we are pleased that this research demonstrates that we are maintaining best practice and enhancing safety standards.”