What role does the RSPCA play in Australian agriculture and livestock production?
As Australia’s largest and most trusted animal welfare organisation, the RSPCA is committed to improving and promoting better welfare for farm animals throughout their lifetime.
The RSPCA firmly grounds its policies, communications and activities on the most current animal welfare science. This science-based approach forms the foundation for our role in Australian agriculture.
By working and engaging with a wide range of stakeholders in the livestock sector, supporting research and development, and connecting with individual producers including through the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme, the RSPCA aims to improve animal welfare for large numbers of farm animals.
We recognise the need to balance animal welfare with the commercial realities of farming to ensure a viable livestock sector where farmers have the resources to properly care for their animals. The RSPCA believes that good animal welfare and the needs of individual animals can be met, while at the same time providing the community with food and fibre and having a productive and profitable livestock sector.
RSPCA Australia works with many groups to further the welfare of farm animals including the federal government, state/territory governments, peak livestock industry councils, financial institutions, farming organisations, countless individual farmers and livestock enterprises, research and development corporations, and universities to help further the interests of farm animals.
The RSPCA contributes to the development of practical tools such as best practice husbandry and management guides, on-farm and supply chain protocols and animal welfare standards. Through this collaborative approach, the RSPCA improves animal welfare outcomes for farm animals on a large scale.
The RSPCA encourages the uptake of higher welfare husbandry and management practices as a way of achieving continuous improvement in farm animal welfare, for example:
- Stockpersonship – we encourage the development of a positive culture that supports the humane treatment of farm animals where stockpersons have the knowledge, skills, attitude and behaviour necessary to handle and interact with animals in an appropriate, caring manner.
- Breeding – we encourage the breeding of farm animals for positive welfare traits such as robustness and longevity, polled cattle, or flystrike resistant sheep and select against traits which cause or predispose animals to pain and discomfort.
- Housing – we support farming systems where animals are provided with freedom of movement and the ability to satisfy their behavioural, social, and physiological preferences and needs. The RSPCA opposes extreme confinement, where animals are tethered or housed in cages, stalls or crates.
- Painful husbandry procedures — we support research and uptake of non-invasive alternatives to painful husbandry procedures, such as beak trimming, castration, disbudding, dehorning, mulesing, spaying, and tail docking. When necessary, advocate for husbandry procedures to be carried out at an early age, by an accredited operator, and using pre- and post-procedure pain relief.
- Drought preparedness — we encourage uptake of principles for managing animals during drought that focus on planning and preparing for extended dry periods and provide practical strategies to protect farm animal welfare and avoid suffering.
- Euthanasia – we promote the humane and immediate euthanasia of farm animals that are suffering and that will not recover. We promote the use of an appropriate firearm or captive bolt device to ensure the animal is killed instantly.
- Transport — we promote mustering, handling and transport practices that do not cause injury, suffering or distress, and focus on the shared responsibility between the farm owner, transport driver and the final receiver, including ensuring that the animal is fit for the intended journey. Because of the risks to animal welfare, RSPCA Australia actively advocates for the phase out of live animal exports to be replaced with meat exports.
- Saleyards — where direct consignment of farm animals is not possible, we advocate for animal handling and management that minimises stress and helps improve the welfare of animals at saleyards. This includes provision of shade for all animals and sufficient space to move around freely, access to water and the ability to lie down and get up unhindered.
- Slaughter – we advocate for the humane slaughter of farm animals where the animal is either killed instantly or stunned (rendered insensible) until death ensues, without pain, suffering or distress. Animals must also be held in appropriate facilities that ensure their welfare and handled humanely prior to slaughter.
- Transparency – we encourage openness of farm operations, participation in independent audit schemes that improve animal welfare and support the provision of accurate information and labelling to consumers.
And finally, established in 1996, the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme improves the welfare of Australia's farm animals by working with licensed producers to farm to higher welfare standards, and working with brands to make higher welfare products available to consumers.
Find out more about our role in agriculture here.