Issues Magazine

New National Standards a Lost Opportunity for Animal Welfare


RSPCA, 26 March 2013

RSPCA Australia fears the latest drafts of the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for sheep and cattle will only entrench the status quo and do little to improve farm animal welfare.

“The development of national standards is a fantastic opportunity to do great things for the welfare of Australian farm animals. So it’s extremely disappointing to us that, in their current form, all the Standards do is allow poor practices to continue,” said RSPCA Australia CEO, Heather Neil.

“The only good thing about these Standards is that, in contrast to the old Model Codes they replace, which were merely guidelines, they will be enforceable.”

If approved, the Standards will allow farmers to continue to perform routine invasive procedures such as dehorning, castration, tail docking and mulesing without pain relief on young animals. They will also still allow very young dairy calves to be housed on their own without the company of other calves, and sheep will still be able to be housed in small individual stalls for most of their lives – a practice common in some parts of the wool industry. Cattle and sheep are social animals and should live in an environment that accommodates social interaction and allows for their natural behaviours.

“The Standards don’t even require sheep and cattle to have daily access to food and water,” said Ms Neil. “If we accept the Standards in their current form, it will be a lost opportunity to make a real difference to the welfare of sheep and cattle on farm.”

RSPCA Australia is urging the public to make their voice heard and help ensure that the development of the Standards and Guidelines sees some noticeable improvement in the welfare of farm animals rather than simply being a means of reinforcing the status quo.

A list of issues RSPCA Australia will be seeking to highlight in its submission can be found at