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Livestock Welfare

AHA’s role in the animal welfare continuum is contained to issues that may impact on animal production, trade and market access and community social licence[1]. AHA plays an important role in supporting the livestock industries and governments to take a strategic approach to livestock welfare management. AHA provides leadership through collaboration and coordination to facilitate solutions for livestock welfare issues and contributes to the development and communications of livestock welfare policy initiatives on behalf of our members.

Find out more about AHA’s role in livestock welfare through this fact sheet.

Definition of the animal welfare and wellbeing continuum

An animal’s basic quality of life can be based on an assessment of an animal’s physical and psychological state with respect to the five freedoms[1] as defined by Professor Brambell in 1965.

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
  2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

Animal welfare can be measured according to:

  • Biological functioning (BCS, disease, reproduction)
  • Affective states (pain, distress, fear, contentment)
  • Natural living (behaviours).

Animal welfare, animal liberation and animal rights are not synonymous terms. Animal liberation and animal rights represent a wide diversity of philosophical views and personal values.

Under the previous Australian Animal Welfare Strategy[2], Australia accepts the agreed international definition of animal welfare from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE):

Animal welfare means how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter/killing.  Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.

Furthermore the AAWS states: Sentience, which implies a level of conscious awareness, is the reason that welfare matters. The management and treatment that sentient animals receive should not inflict unnecessary suffering. As guardians, custodians and caretakers, all Australians have a duty of care to ensure that the welfare of animals is maintained and protected. Animal husbandry and management practices must continue to evolve and improve as society’s expectations change.

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[1] A social licence to operate is the community’s tacit consent for a business or project to exist.

Page reviewed: 10/10/2019