The RSPCA has developed animal welfare standards for layer hens, pigs, meat chickens, turkeys, farmed Atlantic salmon and dairy veal calves that set a high level of welfare for the animals in these farming systems. These standards are much higher than those recommended by the model codes of practice for the welfare of poultry (Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry: https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/3451) and farmed pigs (Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Pigs: https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/5698).
Layer hen, pig, meat chicken, turkey, salmon and dairy veal producers whose farms meet the RSPCA’s standards can apply to join the Approved Farming Scheme. Once the farm has been approved, the RSPCA logo may be used on the packaging of product from that farm. Consumers are then able to choose to buy these products, knowing that the animals have been kept according to the RSPCA’s high welfare standards. Approved farms are regularly assessed by RSPCA Assessors to check compliance with the RSPCA welfare standards.
The aim of the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is ultimately to improve the conditions for farm animals. The RSPCA believes that farm animals must be treated in a way that meets their physiological and psychological needs. As well as having appropriate food, shelter and veterinary care, they must have the freedom to express natural behaviours.
Many common practices in animal farming do not meet the animals’ needs. However, these practices are not illegal. By raising public awareness and ensuring that consumers have access to higher welfare alternatives, the RSPCA aims to create demand for these higher welfare products. As consumer demand increases, producers will have a greater incentive to adopt humane farming practices. The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme forms part of this strategy.
Battery cages are not permitted under the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme for layer hens. The hens in the Approved Farming Scheme must have adequate and good quality litter to use for dust bathing, ground scratching and foraging; space to flap their wings, stretch and socialise; nests for egg laying; adequate perch space; good air quality, and constant access to good quality food and water.
The RSPCA standards for pigs require that pigs are kept in a well-managed environment — either an extensive outdoor system or an enhanced indoor system that provides for the animals’ behavioural and physical needs, and also have standards for handling, transportation and humane slaughter. The RSPCA does not approve pig producers who keep their pigs in intensive confinement. The use of sow stalls and farrowing crates is not allowed under the RSPCA standards, and the housing system must provide bedding and the space for pigs to perform most normal behaviours.
The standards for meat chickens and turkeys ensure good bird welfare by focussing on the housing conditions and management that affects bird welfare. Birds must be provided with perches, environmental enrichment to peck, good litter and air quality, a longer dark period so they can rest properly, adequate light during the day, and sufficient space to move freely.
The RSPCA’s standards for farmed Atlantic salmon focus on ensuring good farming practices, fish handling, husbandry and management. For good fish welfare, fish have space to swim normally in oxygen-rich water and can school with other fish, they are handled in a low stress manner and slaughtered humanely.
Released in 2017, the RSPCA’s standards for dairy veal calves are the most recent addition to the Scheme. In Australia around 675,000 male dairy calves are born every year, and many of these are either killed on farm at birth or sent to slaughter at five days old. By developing these standards, the RSPCA’s objective is to support dairy farmers in a dual purpose farming model by encouraging the rearing of these calves for veal, assuring they will be raised to better welfare standards.
RSPCA Approved farms are assessed at least twice every year to check compliance with the standards.
The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is not-for-profit. Royalty payments received from companies marketing their products as RSPCA Approved are used to fund the Scheme.
To learn more about the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme visit our website.