Cow in PaddockAnimal welfare refers to the physical and psychological well being of animals. Welfare is measured by indicators including:-

– behaviour, physiology, longevity, and reproduction.

When we refer to the term “Animal welfare” we are referring to how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if it is healthy, comfortable, well fed or nourished, safe, able to express normal behavior, and if it is not suffering from pain, fear or distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter. 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. When we talk about animal welfare we are usually referring to how well an animal is adapted to/coping with the environment in which it lives, both physically and emotionally (mentally).
Why should we worry about animal welfare?
There are several reasons to be concerned about animal welfare:
•Poor animal welfare impacts on animal production and reproduction
•Poor animal welfare can result in loss of market access
•Legislation requires livestock owners to care for the welfare of their animals
•Livestock are capable of feeling pain and having a desire for a pleasurable life (they are sentient or have feelings)
Poor animal welfare results in production losses:
Most stock men easily recognise when the welfare of their animals is compromised, often initially noticing that an animal’s behaviour is different or production and/or reproductive performance have declined.
Research throughout the livestock industries has shown that animals showing poor physical and/or mental health can have lower reproduction, growth and production rates.

When an animal is placed in an environment (housing, food, water, social contact, climate or handling) that fails to fully provide for all its’ needs, the animal’s body must act to compensate. The bodily and behavioural mechanisms used to ‘cope’, divert energy away from non-essential functions, such as growth, reproduction and production, towards maintaining the animal’s internal environment.
Often, however, while livestock producers understand, and can readily identify, the effects of poor environments on the welfare of their animals, they are unaware of the impact that they, as animal handlers, can have. Research has shown that poor animal handling can result in livestock that are highly fearful of humans. Fear of humans can decrease welfare, production, reproduction and growth as a result of higher stress levels in animals that are handled poorly. Understanding the natural behaviour of livestock is important in determining the best method of handling. In the last two decades, consumers have become more aware and concerned about the welfare of animals. Animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA have raised the profile of animal welfare in livestock production systems. An increased awareness of animal welfare is increasingly encouraging consumers to seek animal welfare assurances for the animal products they buy. This in turn has encouraged retailers (such as Woolworths/Safeway, and Coles) and fast food outlets such as McDonald and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to regulate and label how the meat and eggs that they purchase are produced.
You will notice when you enter a supermarket that eggs are now labeled as either cage, barn laid or free range on the carton. Labeled products, indicating free-range production, are also available for pork and poultry meat.
A failure to recognise the importance of animal welfare to consumers may result in the loss of market access or market share.
It is important that all livestock producers investigate and implement animal welfare strategies on their farms to ensure market access and the sustainability of livestock production in Australia.
Examples of ethical Issues in Animal production
Ethical issues deal with the morality of a practice and in animal production there are many ethical issues that arise and many difference of opinions as to whether the practice should be carried out. Some of the more recent ethical issues that have risen include;

  1. Mulesing
  2. Live export (Australia is the only country that requires specific animal welfare outcomes for livestock exports)
  3. Battery Egg production
  4. Use of farrowing crates

There are advantages to the use of these practices; however there are some disadvantages to their use as well. The decision as to if the grower is going to use these practice is based on the manager’s knowledge of animal welfare, research into the use of the practice, consequences of not using the practices and consumer opinion that more often than not affects the sale of the product.

What are the Legal Requirements?
There are certain legal requirements that as a producer need to be adhered to.

For a comprehensive look at the parliamentary Acts that need to be taken into consideration in animal production click here