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RSPCA Policy B4 Handling, husbandry and management

Article ID: 722
Last updated: 13 Jun, 2018
Revision: 4
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4.1 RSPCA Australia believes that farm animal handling, husbandry and management practices must provide for the behavioural, social and physiological needs of the individual animal and not cause pain, injury, suffering or distress.
4.2 RSPCA Australia encourages the principle of planned health management and believes farmers and registered veterinarians must work together to prevent, monitor and respond to existing and emerging animal welfare concerns. Farm animals must be provided with veterinary care by a registered veterinarian when required.
4.3 RSPCA Australia believes that animals must be provided with an optimal environment and that farmers must practice good biosecurity, husbandry and management to reduce the risk of disease. RSPCA Australia believes that antimicrobials should only be used to treat disease, to control the spread of disease, or to prevent disease developing where a registered veterinarian has determined a high disease risk. The routine preventative use of antimicrobials must be avoided, particularly where it is relied upon to maintain animal health and welfare in suboptimal environments.
4.4 RSPCA Australia opposes the use of growth promotants, hormones and other additives which increase or modify production to the detriment of animal welfare.
4.5 RSPCA Australia believes that animals must be provided with adequate, timely and effective pain relief and prompt, humane and appropriate treatment for injury and disease. Stockpersons must be able to identify and promptly treat or seek veterinary treatment when required for weak, ill or injured animals.

RSPCA Australia opposes the following practices:*

a)    induced calving as a husbandry practice to regularise milk production
b)    forced moulting, where food and water are withheld for any period to extend the productive life of layer hens
c)    forced feeding unless for veterinary treatment of the animal
d)    use of restrained heifers or cows for the purpose of testing the serving capacity of bulls
e)    grazing of sheep, goats or other animals as a means of controlling toxic weeds where there is a potential deleterious effect on the animals
f)    removal of antlers in velvet solely for commercial sale
g)    farming of ratites (large flightless undomesticated birds).

4.7 Provision of feed and water
4.7.1 RSPCA Australia believes that animals must have access to good quality drinking water at all times and be provided with palatable feed of sufficient quality and quantity to maintain good body condition.
4.7.2 RSPCA Australia believes that procedures must be in place to provide feed and water to animals in the event of fire, flood, drought, equipment failures or other breakdowns, natural disasters, or other unforeseen events.
4.8 Animal handling
4.8.1 RSPCA Australia believes that animals must be handled calmly and quietly and with an awareness of their flight zone.
4.8.2 RSPCA Australia believes that husbandry and management procedures that require an animal to be handled or restrained must take place in an appropriate location with facilities and equipment that do not cause pain, injury, suffering or distress to the animal concerned.
4.8.3 RSPCA Australia advocates the use of handling aids and methods that are suitable for the animal being handled and that do not cause pain, injury, suffering or distress.

RSPCA Australia opposes the following practices:*

a)    electric prodders to move farm animals
b)    electro-immobilisation to prevent voluntary movement of conscious animals.

4.9 Invasive animal husbandry procedures
4.9.1 RSPCA Australia believes that invasive procedures must only be carried out where established as necessary for animal welfare reasons.
4.9.2 RSPCA Australia is opposed to any invasive procedure for which there is no established alternative or animal welfare need, which only benefit the human handler of the animals concerned, is performed to increase the production capacity of the animals, is performed for cosmetic purposes, or to overcome adverse effects of the farming system.
4.9.3 RSPCA Australia believes that humane, alternative treatments or practices that preclude the need for an invasive procedure or that eliminate the pain, suffering and distress caused by such procedures must be developed and promptly adopted.
4.9.4 If an invasive procedure is to be performed, it must be undertaken at the earliest age possible, be performed by a registered veterinarian and/or an accredited and competent operator, as appropriate to ensure good animal welfare, and be accompanied by adequate, timely and effective pain-relieving and pain-preventing products.
4.10 Identification of farm animals
4.10.1 RSPCA Australia encourages the identification of farm animals for on-farm management and to enable traceability from birth to slaughter.
4.10.2 RSPCA Australia believes that the identification of farm animals must not occur through painful or distressing means.
4.10.3 RSPCA Australia believes that, where branding is mandatory or where it is performed, freeze branding must be used. The branding site must be chosen to avoid sensitive areas, including the head.

RSPCA Australia opposes the following practices*:

a)    hot iron (fire) branding
b)    ear mutilation (notching/cutting).

4.11 Sale of farm animals for home slaughter
4.11.1 RSPCA Australia is opposed to the sale of farm animals destined for home slaughter due to the higher risk of incompetent handling, transport and killing.
4.12 Euthanasia of farm animals
4.12.1 RSPCA Australia believes that farm animals which are weak, sick, injured, and/or unable to walk, and will not recover must be humanely and competently killed in situ without delay.
4.12.2 RSPCA Australia believes that euthanasia must either kill an animal instantly or render an animal insensible until death ensues, without pain, suffering or distress.
4.12.3 RSPCA Australia believes that euthanasia protocols must be in place, and that those responsible for the care of animals must be appropriately trained and competent in humane methods of killing, or have prompt access to someone who is.
4.12.4 RSPCA Australia recognises the importance of established protocols to protect animal welfare in the event of an emergency. This includes established procedures for the humane and rapid killing of large numbers of animals when required for animal welfare reasons in the case of an emergency animal disease response, natural disaster, or other unforeseen emergency situation which negatively affects animal welfare.

* This is not an exhaustive list and for species and/or housing systems not specifically listed, B1 Farm animals - general principles as well as any other relevant farm animal policies apply.

See also:

RSPCA policies:

E4 Utilisation of wild animals
E8 Fish and aquatic invertebrates
F1 Transportation - general principles
F2 Transportation of livestock for slaughter
G1 Humane killing

RSPCA position papers:

B1 Welfare of bobby calves on farm
B4 Invasive farm animal husbandry procedures
B5 Managing farm animals during drought
F2 Transportation of drought-affected livestock
F3 Road transport of livestock
G3 Welfare of animals at abattoirs

(Reviewed 28/03/2018)

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RSPCA Policy B3 Environment and housing       RSPCA Policy B5 Breeding of farm animals