Guy de Maupassant opined that the role of critics should not be to pull down artists’ work, but to enable them to “do something beautiful, in the style that suits you best, according to your temperament”. Critics of the poultry industry do not seem to have yet learnt that lesson.

…do something beautiful, in the style that suits you best, according to your temperament…

The poultry sector wants to do the right thing, be responsible, and do the best we can for our birds, our businesses, and our customers. Which is why it’s incredibly frustrating when our best efforts get such diverse critical reactions from stakeholders, politicians, and, frankly, people who should know us better.

The mauling we received on plans to release industry-led Defra-endorsed guidance on broiler welfare is in juxtaposition to the praise received on releasing our report on antibiotic use by the poultry sector. While you could say that the former is what happens when you mix politicians and rabid speculation, it doesn’t explain why the same commentators are supportive of the latter.

To be critical should be to add to the process, to do something beautiful. We try to be consistent. The intention behind both the welfare guidance and the antibiotics use report was exactly the same, to help members and stakeholders develop their understanding. That is both our style and our temperament.

We’re a sector trying to grasp two immensely important issues in an open and constructive manner. Engaging others for views and debate, and most importantly taking a lead. We want the best information and guidance there can possibly be, and in practice that is what we’ll continue to develop.

So instead of industry-led let’s start thinking about expert-led. Our experts are actively developing the thinking on issues that affect us, and we must progress and improve. On top of that it’s clear we still have work to do in building trust outside the sector. Our critics need to trust us enough to engage positively, and the only way to do that is to expose our work to open debate.

So we’ve got to keep on doing the right thing, and believe in our work and our experts. What we do will always get a reaction, and we’ve got to do as much as possible to ensure it’s a good reaction.

Speaking of good reactions, we couldn’t talk about these two issues without praising the experts. Neither the welfare guidance or the antibiotics use report would even be possible without the farming, veterinary, and management excellence in the industry. The reports that we as a trade association write are nothing but a reflection of the high standards of the practitioners. It is this commitment that sets our industry apart, and when all is said and done perhaps that is something beautiful.

This article was first published in Poultry World