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What is the RSPCA doing about transportation of farm animals?

Article ID: 119
Last updated: 02 May, 2017
Revision: 11
Views: 12440

Farm animals are transported within Australia to other properties, saleyards, feedlots, abattoirs and export ports. Some of these journeys may involve distances of thousands of kilometres over several days. Most land transport uses purpose-built trucks, although some rail transport also occurs.

Transport is stressful for farm animals and can cause suffering and deaths. Aspects of transport that can affect animal welfare include separation of the animals from their familiar environments and social groups, forced interaction with unfamiliar animals, unfamiliar handling by people, overcrowding, water and food deprivation, exposure to extremes of temperature and humidity, and novel experiences and situations.

The RSPCA believes that animals should be transported in a way that avoids injury and minimises suffering or distress. Journey times should be as short as possible, and slaughter of food animals should occur as near to the farm as possible. Particular care is needed during transport of animals that are in poor condition because of drought, and transport of bobby calves. Bobby calves are often transported for slaughter at less than 5 days of age. They are particularly susceptible to stress and injury during transport because of their young age.

The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Land Transport of Livestock have been developed and aim to ensure that basic animal welfare requirements are met during the transport process. They apply to the major commercial livestock industries in Australia, including cattle, sheep, pigs, horses and poultry, and cover all stages of the transport process: mustering, assembling, handling and preparation, loading, transport and unloading of livestock. The RSPCA was one of two animal welfare organisations involved in the development of the standards. As a contributor to the transport standards, the RSPCA pressed for improvements in the transport process for farm animals, especially the way animals are handled, the conditions on board the vehicles, and the extent to which animals are provided with water and rest during the process.

All states and territories except for Western Australia have now incorporated the standards under legislation. The ACT has only just commenced the process. The RSPCA would also like to see the standards incorporated into quality assurance programs by the livestock and transport industries. These programs should be independently audited to ensure that they are being complied with.

The RSPCA is extremely disappointed that the WA government has failed to legislate on this issue, particularly given the the length of many livestock transport journeys in WA and its significant involvement in the live export trade. If you would like to register your concern over the lack of enforceable standards for the land transport of livestock in WA, please contact to the WA Minister for Agriculture.


This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person's unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
Also read
document What happens to bobby calves?
document RSPCA Policy F1 Transportation of animals - general principles
document RSPCA Policy F2 Transportation of livestock for slaughter
document RSPCA Policy F3 Export of live food animals
document RSPCA Policy F4 Transportation of bobby calves
document How should farm animals be managed during drought?
document Will closed circuit television help improve the welfare of farm animals?
document Are there animal welfare advantages to on-farm mobile slaughtering units or micro abattoirs?

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