Livestock welfare

AHA’s role in the animal welfare continuum is contained to issues that may impact on animal production, trade and market access and community social licence.

AHA plays an important role in supporting the livestock industries and governments to take a strategic approach to livestock welfare management. AHA provides leadership through collaboration and coordination to facilitate solutions for livestock welfare issues and contributes to the development and communications of livestock welfare policy initiatives on behalf of our members.

Definition of animal welfare

Animal Heath Australia accepts the agreed international definition of animal welfare from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE):

Animal welfare means the physical and mental state of an animal in relation to the conditions in which it lives and dies. An animal experiences good welfare if the animal is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress, and is able to express behaviours that are important for its physical and mental state. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and appropriate veterinary care, shelter, management and nutrition, a stimulating and safe environment, humane handling and humane slaughter or killing. While animal welfare refers to the state of the animal, the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.

Animal welfare regulation

The state and territory governments in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) have the principal responsibility for livestock welfare in each jurisdiction.

The Australian Government is responsible for trade and international agreements relating to livestock welfare, including live animal exports and export abattoirs.

Welfare standards development

Model codes of practice for the welfare of animals have played an important role in livestock welfare for the past 36 years. These codes suggest acceptable livestock welfare outcomes, but they are not mandatory. In various ways, they are used under the current state and territory Acts for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

Developing nationally consistent animal welfare arrangements for various industry sectors is a welfare priority identified by all levels of government, industry, and welfare organisations.

Australian producers have always been aware of their responsibilities for livestock welfare. However, increasing awareness among consumers is placing significant pressure on our livestock industries to improve animal welfare. The development of welfare standards and guidelines underpins access to overseas markets and reinforces Australia’s international leadership in livestock welfare.

Priority is placed on enhanced national harmonization  of regulation and sustainable improvements in animal welfare based on science, national and international benchmarks and changing community standards

For more information visit the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines website. 

Model codes of practice for animal welfare

Model codes of practice for the welfare of animals have played an important role in livestock welfare for the past 35 years.

These codes suggest acceptable livestock welfare outcomes but they are not mandatory. In various ways, they are used under the current state and territory Acts for the prevention of cruelty to animals:

Developing nationally consistent animal welfare arrangements for various industry sectors is a welfare priority identified by all levels of government, industry and welfare organisations.

Enhanced national harmonization of regulation and sustainable improvements in animal welfare based on science, national and international benchmarks and changing community standards, are areas of priority effort.

In 2005, it was proposed that existing model codes of practice be revised into a new format, to incorporate both national welfare standards and industry recommended guidelines for each species or enterprise. AHA was commissioned to facilitate the development of nationally consistent standards and guidelines for livestock following the 2005 review.

The fundamental components and workings of the development process are available in the introduction of the draft standards and guidelines document and in the agreed development business plan, available on this website.

Five Welfare Domains

The Five Domains model infographic is a visual aid designed to help people conceptualise some experiences an animal may have, both positive and negative, that contribute to the animal’s welfare state.

Crisis response for animal welfare

The 2014 Crisis Response for Animal Welfare (CRAW) project investigated circumstances where livestock businesses are unable to care for their animals and require external stakeholders to assist or take over control. Animal welfare crises include any event that threatens business continuity such as a natural disaster, or a property-specific crisis such as the sudden death or injury of a producer, system malfunctions or a farm ‘walk-off’.

The project report indicated that there could be improvements in how Australia manages animal welfare crises arising from localised, small-scale issues like farm walk offs, sudden deaths and system malfunctions.  However, the report determined that Australia is well placed to manage large scale animal welfare crises that arise from events such as natural disasters and emergency animal disease outbreaks with the community playing an important role in supporting producers during these large scale events.

The report made 13 recommendations to improve Australia’s capability in responding to livestock welfare crises. There are recommendations for the state and federal governments, industry and due to its integral role during property-specific crises, the finance sector.

In summary the key recommendations are to:

Industry

  • develop a tool kit to guide animal welfare contingency planning for producers
  • formalise industry’s role and responsibility in dealing with animal welfare crisis responses
  • clarify the use of industry held funds, reserves and resources in responding to animal welfare crises.

Government

  • retain lead in responding to animal welfare crises
  • improve animal welfare crisis response plans, response tactics and national coordination arrangements.

Finance Sector

  • develop policies, guidelines and training for finance staff that consider livestock welfare during a property closure or financial hardship being experienced by producers.

The project was commissioned by AHA on behalf of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) Livestock and Production Animals Working Group. Funding support was provided by the Australian Government, Meat and Livestock Australia, Dairy Australia, and Australian Wool Innovation. AHA managed the project with input from a Steering Committee involving industry and government representatives.


References

Mellor DJ (2017) Operational details of the Five Domains Models and its key applications to the assessment and management of animal welfare. Animals 7(8):60. doi:10.3390/ani7080060 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5575572/

Mellor DJ & Beausoleil NJ (2015) Extending the ‘Five Domains’ model for animal welfare assessment to incorporate positive welfare states. Animal Welfare 24:241–253. doi: 10.7120/09627286.24.3.241.