What is the Respectful Life Project?
Project Respectful Life is a joint initiative between the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) and Febev, the Belgian meat federation. It is a global scientific research project intended to improve animal welfare in the horse meat sector.
Researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven will identify and test parameters linked to horse welfare throughout the equine meat industry supply chain. They will provide conclusions and recommendations which will be available for the public.
The research will be carried out using the terms of reference from the Catholic University Of Leuven’s, and will be incorporating the latest advances in technology. The parameters will be objective, and the results verifiable. The researchers will have full access to the facilities of the participants where the research is carried out.
The research aims to be comprehensive in their field, both vertically and horizontally. Firstly, the Project is of a global nature: equine welfare will be investigated in an international setting. Researchers will have access to facilities of the project’s members, which are located in Europe, South America, North America, etc. The study’s methodology will take into account parameters relating to climate, season, length and mode of transport, shelter, etc. which may vary from country to country. Secondly the study incorporates the entire supply chain, from transport, slaughterhouses, manufacturers up to and including importers, distributors, etc.
It is important to note that the project is specific to the equidae. Other animal species intended for slaughter will have different welfare requirements and vulnerabilities. Hence the focus on equine welfare of this particular project.
The studies will be conducted on a fully independent basis, in order to obtain scientifically validated results. The Catholic University of Leuven is an independent research institution and university committed to scientific and academic excellence. The horse meat sector will contribute towards covering the costs of the study. The Project is however financially independent and may dispose of its funds as it sees fit.
Finally, over the past few years, the Respectful Life project has also turned its attention to ongoing monitoring of the supply chain outside Europe. Firstly by installing cameras in the slaughterhouses, enabling constant and random video surveillance of the way in which horses are handled, and then by the implementation of an audit system. These audits will be conducted by an independent certification body on the basis of the Respectful Life specifications.