Animal Welfare

Animal welfare refers to both the mental and physical states of an animal in whatever environment it finds itself.

It is now recognised that it is insufficient to just meet an animal's major needs to ensure good welfare. To have good welfare an animal must have positive emotional and physical experiences. An animal must have positive wellbeing and a “life worth living”. There are five main areas for consideration which can be broadly described as nutritional, environmental, health, behavioural and mental. Each area must add to the overall mental wellbeing of the animal. Animals must be given opportunities and even encouraged to enjoy positive experiences.

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.  The environment should provide cognitive challenges and enriching choices.
Disease or injury

Prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Behavioural restriction Providing sufficient space, proper facilities and the company of the animal's own kind (if applicable).  Opportunities should be provided for animals to engage in rewarding behaviours.
Suffering (mental and physical) Minimising the conditions that produce unacceptable levels of anxiety, fear, distress, boredom, sickness, pain, thirst, hunger, and the like, and increase the chances for positive experiences.

Codes of Practice

Improvements in animal welfare standards have been achieved by the application of new scientific knowledge about what animals need into codes of practice. However, these codes of practice describe minimal standards and in no way should be seen as the ultimate measure of good welfare.

In Australia, the following Codes of Practice are at least a general move in the right direction to improve the welfare of animals. A few of these codes have legal standing in the States and Territories, but not all. Most can be seen as recommendations only.

In the past, 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.

One code that is mandated in every state and territory is the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.  The purpose of this code is to ensure the ethical and humane treatment of animals used in science.

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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.