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Defra must not permit the gene editing of farm animals

News Section Icon Published 29/09/2021

Today (29th September), Environment Secretary George Eustice has announced plans to "unlock the power of gene editing to help our farmers grow more resistant, more nutritious and more productive crops",  published as part of the Government's response to the recent gene editing consultation.

  • Compassion is pleased that Defra recognises the need to give consideration to the animal welfare and ethical concerns raised during its consultation. As a result, any changes to legislation to permit the gene editing of animals will come later. However, we fear that Defra will at some point give a green light to the gene editing of animals. This could be a disaster for animal welfare.
  • Selective breeding has already pushed farm animals to such fast growth and high yields that many suffer from painful health problems. For example, the chickens reared for meat have been bred to grow so quickly that each year millions suffer from painful leg disorders while others succumb to heart disease. Gene editing is poised to make such problems much worse as it will be used to drive animals to ever faster growth and higher yields.
  • Gene editing can be used to confer disease resistance. In some cases, this will be beneficial. However, many diseases in farm animals stem from the poor conditions in which they are kept. In such cases gene-edited disease resistance could lead to animals being kept in even more crowded, stressful conditions than at present.

Peter Stevenson OBE, Chief Policy Advisor at Compassion in World Farming, said:

“We urge Defra not to permit the gene editing of farm animals other than in the most exceptional circumstances, as this technology will in many cases lead to serious animal welfare problems.

Gene editing is a modern, cutting-edge piece of biotechnology being used to support an antiquated, inhumane farming system – factory farming.”

For further information or to book an interview, contact Compassion in World Farming’s Media Team: 01483 521 615



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