Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Membership of assurance/health schemes & compliance with welfare legislation


Each year a subset of farms in the UK are inspected by Government agencies (and local authorities) to ensure that they are complying with welfare legislation1. At EU and UK government levels there is a commitment to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers by utilising a risk-based system of regulation and inspection, so that farmers at greater risk of non-compliance should be more likely to have farm inspections than those at lower risk.

Previous work by the University of Warwick2 indicated that members of farm assurance and organic certification schemes were less likely to fail farm inspections for compliance with animal welfare legislation performed by inspectors from the Animal Plant and Health Agency (formerly Animal Health & Veterinary Laboratories Agency). Farm assurance scheme membership was subsequently added to the Defra risk model, with members of schemes having a lower likelihood of inspection by APHA.

Following a Defra-led consultation3 it was suggested that other farm-level factors could be informative of welfare inspection compliance and could therefore included in the risk model to further improve targeting of farms at risk of non-compliance. These were: the outcome of cross compliance inspections, participation in herd health schemes, and post-mortem data provided to the Food Standards Agency from abattoirs.

Project aims

We investigated whether the proposed sources of data could be used in the risk model, based upon whether the outcomes were associated with compliance and whether the data were supplied in a usable format. We also assessed whether the link between farm assurance and organic scheme membership and compliance was still present. In discussion with Defra we developed an alternative, transparent and easy to use, selection process for allocating inspections.


Farms in farm assurance, organic, and herd health schemes were more likely to pass welfare inspections. There was no association between compliance at welfare inspections and cross compliance outcomes. The full results can be found in our publication Farm membership of voluntary welfare schemes results in better compliance with animal welfare legislation in Great Britain4, and our final report to Defra5.

Further information/references:

1 For information about how and when government officials might visit a farm, see Farm Inspections Guidance

2 KilBride, AL, Mason, SA, Honeyman, PC, Pritchard, DG, Hepple, S and Green, LE. (2012) Associations between membership of farm assurance and organic certification schemes and compliance with animal welfare legislation The Veterinary Record, 170 (152) 42-49.

3 Non-formal consultation on proposals to reform the animal welfare inspection regime

4 Clark, CCA, Crump, R, KilBride, AL and Green, LE. (2016) Farm membership of voluntary welfare schemes results in better compliance with animal welfare legislation in Great Britain. Animal Welfare, 25:461-469

5Study to review and recommend enhancements to the AHVLA welfare compliance farm inspections risk model - AW0514

Defra Logo2
Project Team

Corinna Clark

Laura Green

Amy KilBride

Green Group Research