In Australia, many different methods are used to control or kill animals classed as pests. These methods include chemicals and toxins for poisoning animals, biological control, physical methods such as traps to capture animals, shooting, and non-lethal methods such as exclusion fencing and fertility control. These methods vary greatly in their humaneness, or impact on animal welfare, and there are many methods that cause significant pain, suffering or distress to the affected animals.
People involved in the control of pest or invasive animals will consider a range of different factors when considering what method to use, including effectiveness, cost, target specificity, practicality as well as humaneness. But, until recently, no widely accepted method of measuring or assessing humaneness was available.
To help solve this problem, RSPCA Australia has been involved in developing a model to assess the animal welfare impact of control methods and allow comparisons to be made between different methods. It provides a practical way of assessing humaneness that can be applied to any pest control method. You can find more about the model from the PestSmart website.
Methods currently in use that are widely accepted as being unacceptable because of the level of cruelty they cause are serrated steel-jawed traps to capture wild dogs and foxes, fumigation of rabbit warrens with chloropicrin, and the poisoning of feral pigs with yellow phosphorus or CSSP. These methods are currently being phased out across Australia. Application of the model will help to ensure that more humane methods are chosen wherever control of vertebrate pest animals is required.