Animal Welfare

Animal welfare refers to how well an animal is coping both with its environment and with the way it is being managed.

When an animal's major needs are being met, its welfare is good. There are five main areas of need, which can be broadly described as nutritional, environmental, health, behavioural and mental needs. These areas of need can guide us when we want to find out how to prevent an animal's welfare from being harmed. They show us where animal welfare problems can occur, and they help us work out how to prevent or correct those problems.

Animal welfare issues

Five ways in which the animal's welfare may be affected and how these welfare issues may be prevented or corrected are shown below.

Issue Prevention / correction
Water shortage, 
food shortage, 
unbalanced diet
Ensuring ready access to fresh water and an appropriate diet in sufficient quantities and with a composition that maintain full health and vigour.
Environmental challenge Providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area, whether outdoors or indoors.
Disease or injury Prevention or by rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Behavioural restriction Providing sufficient space, proper facilities and the company of the animal's own kind.
Suffering (mental and physical) Minimising the conditions that produce unacceptable levels of anxiety, fear, distress, boredom, sickness, pain, thirst, hunger, and the like.

Codes of Practice

Big improvements in animal welfare standards have been achieved by the application of new scientific knowledge about what animals' needs are.

In Australia, this knowledge has been used to devise the following Codes of Practice. These Codes set minimum animal welfare standards. They also describe "good practice" - the ways animals' needs can be met so that their welfare is kept above the minimum acceptable levelling the practical circumstances in which we keep and use them. These have legal standing in the States and Territories.

In the past, and even today, preventing bad states (like undernutrition, disease or suffering) has been and continues to be the main way of making welfare improvements. However, increasing attention is now also being given to enhancing good states such as the pleasure, happiness and contentment that animals may experience.

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    Model Codes of Practice are prepared by the Animal Welfare Committee of SCARM (the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management), and are available from animal welfare offices in each State and Territory.

    There are Codes for:

    • The Destruction or Capture, Handling and Marketing of Feral Livestock Animals
    • Animals at Saleyard
    • Livestock and poultry at Slaughtering Establishments (Abattoirs, Slaughterhouses and Knackeries)
    • Air Transport of Livestock
    • Sea Transport of Livestock
    • The Goat
    • The Camel
    • Cattle
    • The Farming of Deer
    • Intensive Husbandry of Rabbits
    • Land Transport of Horses
    • Road Transport of Livestock
    • Rail Transport of Livestock
    • The Pig
    • Land Transport of Pigs
    • Land Transport of Poultry
    • The Sheep

    The Codes are reviewed regularly to allow for new knowledge about the needs of animals, new developments in the ways we keep and use animals, and changes in our ideas about what are acceptable and unacceptable ways of keeping and using animals.