Issues Magazine

Articles about Animal Welfare

Australia Leads the World in Livestock Export

Sheep on board a livestock export ship.

Sheep on board a livestock export ship.

By Alison Penfold

The Australian livestock export industry has become a world leader in terms of the quality of livestock it supplies, its efficiency and animal welfare.

Australia has exported livestock to overseas markets for more than 50 years. The livestock export industry is an important component of the Australian agricultural sector, contributing an average of $1 billion in export earnings annually to the national economy.

The industry employs approximately 13,000 people, mainly in regional and rural Australia, and provides significant employment opportunities to indigenous people across northern Australia.

Learning from Animals that Learn

By Sonia Kleindorfer and Jeremy Robertson

Learning by chicks in the egg is crucial to the survival of superb fairy-wrens, and has the power to change our perception of other species.

Our capacity to wonder and to communicate that wonder sets us apart from many animals. But when does communication about the external world begin?

The BirdLab at Flinders University recently discovered that communication occurs before birth, at least in some birds, and that it is crucial for survival. We found that female superb fairy-wrens teach their unhatched embryos a unique acoustic element that is the basis of their begging call.

Animal Welfare and Education

By Compiled by Sally Meakin

Our affinity for animals is undeniable, but welfare education continues to be important in shaping behaviour towards them.

Can you imagine a world without animals? I can’t, and I don’t want to. Our daily lives are filled with them, and raising awareness about their welfare has been a component of social change movements and ethical development for students of all ages for decades.

Animals in Research: The Fruit Fly

By Gary Hime

An enormous amount of what we know about genetics has come from research using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

More than a century of scientific research on a species of fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has placed it on a pedestal in the pantheon of organisms that have informed us of the mysteries of developmental processes and molecules that govern our own development and disease.


Alternatives to Animal Experimentation: An Australian Approach

By Sharyn Watson

Developing medical research methodologies that don’t involve experiments on animals reduces suffering for all species – human and non-human.

Graduates are increasingly concerned with the ethical dilemmas they face when using animals in their research projects. They are among an increasing number of medical scientists attempting to replace animals wherever possible, in line with the National Health and Medical Research Council Code of Practice.

Animals as Entertainment

By Lynda Stoner

Zoos are for the enjoyment of humans, not animals. Our focus must be on retention and regeneration of natural habitat.

I still recall my first trip to a zoo as a child. Back then, people dressed up for such a special occasion – best frocks, much anticipation. Going to the zoo was an Event.

But the only feeling I still harbour from visiting the Adelaide Zoo decades ago is a sense of bleakness at the plight of the animals. George the orang-utan arrived from Borneo in the 1950s and existed in his barren environment until 1976. A statue of George has been erected at the zoo.

Animal Export Regulation the Key to Best Outcomes for All

Live export

The introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System in 2011 is the most significant reform the live export industry has ever seen.

By Phillip Glyde

The introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System in 2011 is the most significant reform the live export industry has ever seen.

The topic of live animal export stirs strong emotions. It is for good reason too, as it covers important considerations such as the welfare of animals and the livelihood of Australians working in rural and regional communities.

The Australian Government has a responsibility to everyone involved in the trade – the farmers and exporters who rely on the trade for their income, the exported animals that rely on us to ensure their welfare, and the broader Australian community that rely on us to enforce standards that reflect their values.

Using Animals for Food

By Ashleigh Haw

Do some research into animals raised for food and you may be tempted to become a vegan.

Contemporary Australia is no stranger to the concept of equality. Exposure via news, pop culture, advertising and social media produces many young activists concerned with equality in gender, sexuality, marriage and race.

The overwhelming majority of Australians, however, are happy to look away from another issue of inequality – one that causes ongoing and unnecessary suffering to thousands of living beings every minute of every day. I am talking about the use of animals for food.

Fox Baiting in Tasmania: What’s at Risk?

Installing a fox bait warning sign.  DPIPWE

Installing a fox bait warning sign. DPIPWE

By Matthew Marrison

With careful attention to the science and planning, targeting foxes in a wildlife-rich environment can be a success.

It’s first light in Tasmania, and across the island thousands of native animals are returning to daytime refuges following a night feeding in pastures and paddocks surrounding cities and towns. These fragmented landscapes, where agricultural land mixes with tendrils of remnant bushland, are rich in resources and attract a wide variety of native wildlife, often to the displeasure of farmers trying to protect crops from hungry wallabies and residents trying to sleep while unruly possums raid rubbish bins.

Such landscapes are also ideal habitat for foxes.

Pet Obesity: Big and Getting Bigger

By Anne-Katrin Oatley

Pet obesity and obesity-related disease are growing problems. Seeking advice early could avoid poor pet health and expensive treatment.

When was the last time you took the dog for a walk? If you have a dog, hopefully the answer is “this morning”!

The fact is, dogs love exercise. Big or small, most dogs love nothing better than going for a walk. The minute you pick up that lead, the dog is beside himself with joy … unless the dog is overweight and unwell.

Animal Ethics Committees: Gatekeepers of Animal Research

 Source: (CC by 2.0)

Macaque monkeys used for research in an animal testing laboratory. Monkeys are socially housed and have play toys for environmental enrichment. Source: (CC by 2.0)

By Lynette Chave and Peter Johnson

Animal ethics committees are a way for the community to participate in decision-making about the care and use of animals in research.

What types of activity come to mind at the mention of animal research? Many people might think of monkeys with skull implants, dogs undergoing surgery or rabbits having substances put in their eyes. In reality, the scope of what constitutes “animal research”, and the laws that govern this in Australia, are much broader, and the typical images much rarer.

Jumps Racing: A “Sport” on Life Support

 Paolo Camera (CC by 2.0)

Paolo Camera (CC by 2.0)

By Tammy Franks

It’s expensive, outdated, deadly and cruel, but the horses are still flying high, risking deadly falls, at South Australian race meetings.

To me a ban on jumps racing has been a no-brainer for decades – or 100 years even, according to Queenslanders who phased out the “sport” a century ago. Western Australia stopped it in 1941, Tasmania followed suit in 2007, while in NSW there has been a formal ban since 1997.

Now, only Victoria and South Australia tolerate jumps racing, a sport that sees one in 115 horses die from racing – a rate 18 times higher than flat racing.

More action needed to protect Australian animals

By Michelle Grattan

The evidence of gross cruelty in Egyptian slaughterhouses that came to light in May 2013 underlines that while some progress may have been made, the problems in the Australian live export trade are far from solved.

Neither side of politics is likely to stop live animal exports. AAP/Theron Kirkman

They probably will never be and I personally believe the trade should cease. But neither side of politics will ever embrace that. All up, it is worth about $1 billion annually.

Fur and against: Scrutinizing the efficacy of animal testing and its alternatives

By Dyani Lewis

Toxicologist and pharmacologist Prof Thomas Hartung explains why animal testing is often unnecessary or of questionable efficacy. He discusses the emerging protocols and technologies that enable development of safe products without the need to conduct animal testing.


Ending Animal Research: Advancing Science and Safety While Preventing Suffering

By Katherine Groff

Unnecessary, inferior and cruel animal research and testing must be more honestly addressed in a civilised and scientifically advanced society such as ours.

Animal research is not the future of medical progress. More than 90% of medicines found to be safe and effective in animal tests fail to help humans. In many cases, medicines have resulted in serious side-effects and even death.

Africam’s Fight against the Illegal Animal Trade

By Stephanie Henkel

The fight against the wildlife black market is an uphill battle, but compassionate organisations are rising to the challenge.

Wildlife trafficking – the illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products – is a $10 billion per year industry. This type of crime has become an endemic problem that is causing irreversible harm to many species and the environment as a whole. The demand for ivory is fuelling elephant poaching, especially when one tusk can be worth more than an African household’s annual income.

Improving Animal Welfare in Indigenous Communities

By Ian Rodger

The “Smiling Animals in the Dreamtime” project is improving the health and well-being of animals and community members by improving how children care for pets.

The “Smiling Animals in the Dreamtime” project, developed by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, is supporting communities and changing the behaviour of primary school children by building knowledge, awareness and understanding of the needs of animals.

The two-year project was funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS; see box, p.48) to improve animal welfare in Queensland’s indigenous communities.

Why market forces don't protect animal welfare

By Jed Goodfellow and Peter Radan

The economic literature shows animal welfare and productivity are in conflict.

Wild animals are starving, and it's our fault, so should we feed them?

By Freya Mathews

As polar bears begin to die of starvation in a warming Arctic, should we be feeding them? What are the ethical implications of feeding wild animals brought to this point by human actions?

A polar bear found starved to death on an Arctic archipelago in August 2013 has prompted renewed calls for food drops and even feeding pens for polar bears.


By Sally Woollett

An overview of what's in this edition of Issues.

Animal abuse at abattoirs receiving livestock exported from Australia made news again in April following a report released by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Animal welfare groups including the RSPCA are questioning how auditing as part of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) can approve a facility where such cruelty is happening.

Coles are the piggy in the middle of animal welfare confrontation

By Sally Healy and Georgette Burns

The withdrawal of animal welfare-branded shopping bags has raised some important questions about the growing power of ethical consumption.

Last week, Coles supermarkets began selling shopping bags on behalf of animal rights campaigners Animal Australia. Following a backlash from farmers, Animals Australia withdrew the bags. But the stoush raised some important questions about the growing power of ethical consumption, and about who gets to decide how much animal welfare is enough.

The truth about free range eggs is tough to crack

By Christine Parker

How are we to know that our free range eggs are really free range?

Queensland recently changed its regulation of free range eggs, lifting the number of hens allowed per hectare from 1,500 to 10,000. This is more than a six-fold increase.

Can live animal export ever be humane?

By Andrew Fisher

Live export presents a singularly difficult problem for ensuring animal welfare.

Video footage of animal cruelty has kicked off yet another live export controversy. The footage appeared to show not just confronting and inappropriate animal treatment, but the likely movement of Australian-exported sheep outside designated buyers and slaughter plants.

Queensland cattle crisis: animal welfare or the environment?

By Clare McCausland and Siobhan Sullivan

Should drought-affected livestock be allowed to graze in national parks – against the wishes of environmentalists?

Due to a serious drought that has seen one-third of Queensland drought declared, farmers are struggling to feed their cattle. There’s inadequate feed on their own land, feed is hard to source in the marketplace and temporary grazing sites are also proving hard to find.

Animals in research: benefits, ethics and assessment

By Gavan McNally

Animal research is being carefully selected, misrepresented and trivialised in animal welfare campaigns

“AUSTRALIANS SAY NO TO ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS,” rang the headline of a recent media release by the activist group Humane Research Australia, referring to an opinion poll it commissioned in May that found:

the majority of Australians are opposed to such an archaic practice and recognise the need to seek more humane and scientifically-valid options.

Expect more spy drones if ‘ag gag’ laws introduced

By Jed Goodfellow and Peter Radan

Drones have become the new weapon of choice for animal rights activists in their war on animal cruelty.

The “remotely operated Hexacopter drone” may sound like something out of the latest Hollywood sci-fi, but this new technology is about to take centre stage in Australia’s animal welfare debate. Drones have become the new weapon of choice for animal rights activists in their war on animal cruelty.

Live Export: A Cruel and Risky Industry

By Anastasia Smietanka

Incident after incident has shown that the live export trade cannot be regulated to ensure high animal welfare standards. Live exports should be banned.

As the “friend of industry”, the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) regulates the live export trade. But it is also responsible for animal welfare.

Its conflict of interest is obvious. And it shows. The department makes no serious attempt to secure basic welfare.

Nor does industry. The trade is inherently cruel. And when the animals are disembarked dockside in a foreign market, Australian jurisdiction ceases.

Live exports should be banned.

Animals in Research: Zebrafish

By Joan Heath

Zebrafish research is now carried out in at least 600 laboratories worldwide, including 20 in Australia.

Zebrafish are probably not the first creatures that come to mind when it comes to animals that are valuable for medical research.

You might struggle to imagine you have much in common with this small tropical freshwater fish, though you may be inclined to keep a few “zebra danios” in your home aquarium, given they are hardy, undemanding animals that cost only a few dollars each.

Should Animals Continue to Be Used in Research Experiments?

By Cynthia Burnett

Animal experimentation is an established yet controversial practice. Should it continue and what are the alternatives?

In the Western world, the use of animals as a tool to learn about the human body dates back to about 200 AD to the time of Galen, who was physician to Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ family and to the gladiators of ancient Rome. At a time when no anaesthetics were known, Galen cut open live goats, pigs and monkeys in the hope of learning about how the human body works. With few lapses, the animal experimental model has continued in use right up to the present day.

Reproduced from Issues 86: Bioethics

Animals in research: do the costs outweigh the benefits?

By Andrew Knight

A review of the scientific literature reveals that animal research isn't generally applicable to humans.

Studies in non-human animals have led to “countless” treatments for various diseases, according to a recent article.

But the author, Gavan McNally, provided no scientific references to support his claim. In this, of course, he’s not alone: there’s an intriguing history of animal researchers making insufficiently substantiated claims about the value of their work.

Animals in research: mice

By Michael Dobbie, Ruth Arkell and Stuart Read

Mice are the most important model organisms used in medical research.

Our series, Animals in Research, profiles the top organisms used for science experimentation. Here, we look at a species familiar to most: Mus musculus, or the mouse.

Mice have been close companions of humans for millennia but often in competition for food. Indeed, the word “mouse” is thought to be derived from the Sanskrit verb “mūṣ” meaning “to steal”.

Assessing Australia’s regulation of live animal exports

By Siobhan Sullivan

The “acceptable Exporter Supply Chain Assurance system” has now been active for 18 months. How many complaints have been investigated, and what results have we seen?

When Four Corners first broke the story of cruelty to Australian cows in Indonesian abattoirs, the Australian government initiated an “acceptable Exporter Supply Chain Assurance system” to better manage live exports. That system included a complaints mechanism, which has now been active for 18 months. So how many complaints have been investigated, and what results have we seen?

Did the Loris Really Like Being Tickled?

A video looks at the cruel animal trade that led to a popular youtube video.