The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme at present covers the production of eggs, pork, chicken and turkey. RSPCA-Approved farms maintain a high level of welfare for the housing and management of layer hens, pigs, meat chickens and turkeys. Given the serious welfare issues facing hens in cages, sows in sow stalls and traditional farrowing crates, and birds in crowded sheds, the RSPCA believed it was important to first introduce a welfare-friendly alternative for these species. The RSPCA will look into the feasibility of introducing higher welfare standards for beef production.
The production of beef cattle is an extensive industry and is generally not associated with the welfare concerns related to the behavioural restriction of animals in intense confinement (such as layer hens in cages, sows in sow stalls, and meat chickens in large sheds). Nevertheless, beef cattle may be “finished off” in feedlots where they are “fattened up” prior to slaughter. Feedlots are a potential cause for concern as movement is restricted and animals may be exposed to extremes of heat or cold. As with all livestock production systems, animals may be subjected to painful procedures – in the case of beef cattle, e.g. castration and dehorning – without the use of anaesthetics or pain relief.
More information about the production of beef cattle can be found in the articles listed below. In the absence of RSPCA standards for beef production, consumers are encouraged to contact the makers of their favourite beef products and ask them about standards of care for their animals.
Until such time as beef cattle can be included in the Approved Farming Scheme, RSPCA Australia has developed Beef cattle welfare: Our vision to encourage producers to improve on-farm practices that influence animal welfare.