Brian Daly interviews RSPCA Australia’s Chief Science and Strategy Officer, Dr Bidda Jones, to find out more about how farm animals are killed for food in Australia.
In Australia, the killing of animals for food, fibre and other animal products (referred to as ‘slaughter’) is underpinned by minimal provisions in the Australian standard for the hygienic production and transport of meat and meat products for human consumption. The main objective of the standard is to ensure food safety, however, it also includes an animal welfare component.
RSPCA Australia defines humane killing as when an animal is either killed instantly or instantaneously rendered insensible to pain until it dies.
The Australian meat industry has developed its own National animal welfare standards for livestock processing establishments. By incorporating these standards into their quality assurance program (and standard operating procedures), abattoirs are able to demonstrate (to the state meat authority) that they meet regulatory requirements as well as better practice in terms of animal care and welfare.
Standard procedures at Australian abattoirs are designed to hold and move animals throughout the facility in a calm, quiet and ‘low stress’ manner. Just prior to slaughter, animals are restrained and then stunned (rendered unconscious).
Pre-slaughter stunning is scientifically recognised as essential for humane slaughter. Stunning ensures the animal is unconscious and insensible to pain before being bled out at slaughter.
An operator should then confirm that each animal is unconscious and will be insensible to pain when the major blood vessels are severed shortly afterwards. The animal should not regain consciousness and no further processing should take place until the animal is confirmed dead.
- The process of how farm animals are killed for food in Australia
- What the legislation covers and how abattoirs operate
- What stunning is and why it is important
- Consumer questions around religious slaughter in Australia
Brian Daly interviews Coles’ Head of Quality and Responsible Sourcing, James Whittaker, to find out more about what Coles is doing to improve animal welfare, particularly with their free-range pork suppliers.
Coles Free Range Pork comes from pigs raised to the RSPCA’s animal welfare standards. These standards are comprehensive, publicly available and focus on ensuring that the physical and behavioural needs of the pigs are well provided for.
Pigs are smart, social creatures and giving them the physical space and ability to express their natural behaviours is a key part of ensuring they’re happy and healthy.
All RSPCA Approved pork comes from Australian farms, with Coles Free Range Pork sourced from southwest Western Australia.
- Journey for Coles to have free range RSPCA Approved pork
- What happens on the free range RSPCA Approved pork farms that supply Coles
- Welfare benefits for pigs on RSPCA Approved farms
- Other responsible sourcing initiatives from Coles
Brian Daly interviews RSPCA Australia’s Senior Scientific Officer, Melina Tensen, to find out more about bobby calves in the Australian dairy industry, and how we can improve their welfare.
Many Australians value dairy in their diets but may not be aware of the plight of male dairy calves which are often considered a by-product of the dairy industry.
For a dairy cow to produce milk she must first give birth to a calf. In the dairy industry female calves are kept and reared as replacements for the milking herd, but male calves are surplus to the industry’s needs.
In Australia, around 675,000 male dairy calves are born every year. Many of these calves are either killed on farm at birth or, in the case of around 450,000 male calves, destined for slaughter at five days old because there isn’t currently a market for them. Calves as young as five days are not equipped to withstand the rigors of transport, and legislation allows calves to be off feed for 30 hours and transported for up to 12 hours.
Raising excess dairy calves for veal is one way in which the value of an animal that would otherwise be destined for slaughter at five days old can be increased. By increasing their value and providing an alternative market, there is real potential to improve the welfare of bobby calves.
First released in 2017, the RSPCA Approved standards for dairy veal calves are the most recent addition to the Scheme. 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 that they will be raised to better welfare standards.
While there currently isn’t an RSPCA Approved dairy veal product in the market, the RSPCA has been talking to farmers and industry about increasing the value of an animal that would otherwise be considered a by-product of the dairy industry and the opportunity of supplying a humanely farmed veal or beef product to Australian consumers and food service.
- What is a bobby calf
- The welfare issues facing bobby calves in Australia
- Innovations in the Australian dairy industry
- Ways that Australians can help bobby calves
Brian Daly interviews Cordina Farms CEO, Louise Cordina, to find out more about the meat chicken industry in Australia and what’s been done to improve chicken welfare.
Chickens that are grown for meat production (also called broiler chickens) are genetically very different from layer hens (which are bred to produce eggs). Meat chickens have been selectively bred over many generations to grow and gain weight very rapidly, with birds ready for processing at 4-6 weeks old.
The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for meat chickens stipulate specific conditions in which birds must be kept, and go above and beyond the current legislation. In 2018, 78% of the meat chickens grown in Australia met the RSPCA Approved farming scheme standards. Meaning that hundreds of millions of chickens lived better lives, from farms with a focus on animal welfare.
Companies like Cordina Farms recognise the value in improving animal welfare, and having independent certification from a science based organisation. Their commitment to improving the lives of meat chickens has had great impact on chicken welfare, and should be applauded.
- The history of the Australian meat chicken industry
- RSPCA Approved meat chicken standards
- How the meat chicken industry in Australia has changed to improve chicken welfare
Brian Daly interviews RSPCA Australia’s Humane Food Manager, Hope Bertram, to find out more about the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme.
The RSPCA has developed animal welfare standards for layer hens, pigs, meat chickens, turkeys, salmon and dairy veal calves that set a high level of welfare for the animals in these farming systems. These standards go above and beyond the current legislation in Australia today.
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.
- What is the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme
- How the standards are developed
- How the scheme operates
- What the standards cover
- How the scheme is improving the lives of farm animals
Brian Daly interviews Three Bean’s Director, Matt Howe, to find out more about Three Beans Cafes early adoption of higher welfare eggs and his perceptions of the egg industry in Australia.
The RSPCA is strongly opposed to battery cages and believes there must now be a legislative phase-out of their use. For many years, the RSPCA has campaigned against housing hens in battery cages and raised public awareness of the inherent welfare issues of these systems through education and advertising campaigns. The RSPCA has, and will continue to, lobby governments and the egg industry to stop this inhumane production method in Australia.
A very positive and successful move to get hens out of cages was the development of the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme.
Egg producers who meet the RSPCA Standards for layer hens can use the RSPCA logo on the pack to show that the hens producing these eggs have been raised in a well-managed, higher welfare system that provides for the behavioural and physiological needs of the hen.
Hens raised to the Standards are provided with an environment that enables them to display important behaviours such as nesting, perching, dust bathing, wing flapping, foraging and scratching. Battery cages do not allow hens to perform these behaviours.
Companies going the extra mile to source RSPCA Approved eggs should be applauded, and Three Beans have been a long supporter of Rohde's RSPCA Approved eggs.
- Three Beans journey to sourcing RSPCA Approved eggs from Rohde's
- The welfare issues for layer hens in egg production
- How companies can do better by sourcing higher welfare eggs
Brian Daly interviews RSPCA Australia’s Humane Food Manager, Hope Bertram, to find out more about humane food.
The RSPCA believes you can eat meat, dairy or eggs and still care about the welfare of the animals that provide it. These animals are living, feeling creatures, capable of experiencing fear, pain and distress. The RSPCA believes all animals should be treated humanely, whether they’re animals we farm for food or live with as companions.
Humane food is food that is animal-welfare friendly. Standards on animal-welfare friendly farms are higher than those in conventional systems and those required by law. Their environment provides for the animal’s behavioural and physiological needs. It means that from the paddock to the plate, animals have been treated humanely and with full consideration of their needs.
The RSPCA’s Humane Food initiatives form part of RSPCA Australia’s efforts to improve the welfare of farm animals. The RSPCA aims to increase the number of animals farmed in higher welfare production systems and to increase the market share of higher welfare products available to consumers.
The RSPCA is working to educate consumers about where their food comes from and increase demand for higher welfare products through its Humane Food programs, including the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme and Choose Wisely.
- History of RSPCA’s role in agriculture
- How animals are farmed in Australia today
- How legislation works in relation to farm animal welfare
- Some of the biggest animal welfare concerns today for Australian farm animals
- The RSPCA’s approach to engaging with farming industry and encouraging change for better animal welfare