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Animal welfare

Analysis and Comment (81)

With an area smaller than an A4 sheet of paper required per bird, battery hens are debeaked so they don’t peck each other to death. Wikimedia

We have animal welfare laws but they don’t stop the suffering

Julian Burnside and Daniel Reynolds wrote recently for The Conversation that: … animals do have greater rights than asylum seekers in Australia. In fact, Australian law requires that animals be treated…
YouTube footage of a man kicking a squirrel off a cliff has prompted outrage, yet we all need to stop and think about how we treat animals. YouTube

Outcry over squirrel kicker, yet disrespecting animals is the norm

An online video apparently showing a French tourist kicking a squirrel off a cliff in Grand Canyon National Park was greeted with horror and incredulity after being posted (and since removed) on YouTube…
Brazil’s cattle herd is the world’s second-biggest - and welfare standards are on the up. Zeloneto/Wikimedia Commons

Tighter rules mean Brazil is now kicking goals on animal welfare

While Brazil’s footballers have failed spectacularly to live up to expectations, there are other areas where the country is quietly exceeding them. Perhaps surprisingly, Brazil’s rapidly improving animal…
After a tip-off from an Egyptian vet, Animals Australia sparked a government investigation into what an industry leader described as “horrific” slaughtering practices in Egypt last year. Tougher rules have now been promised. Animals Australia

Live animal export rules are useless without enforcement

Australia looks set to resume exporting live sheep to Iran, after Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce this week flagged the end of a 40-year ban following Iran’s Islamic revolution. Flanked by the chief…
Looking out for each other. EPA/Zoological Society of London

Animal welfare and animal rights are very different beasts

More than 20 years ago, the university department where I was doing my PhD was fire bombed by animal rights activists. At the time, I was conducting research into animal welfare, as were many of the staff…
The royal touch - The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine, meet Leuca the Koala during a visit to Taronga Zoo, in Sydney, last month. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

How many visitors can a koala bear? Not many, it seems

Everyone loves to get close to a koala. They are an Australian icon and a major ecotourism attraction. A photo with a koala is a holiday must for many overseas visitors. But how well do these celebrity…
I want to break free. Center for Great Apes

Zoos of the future break down the enclosure walls

The experience of visiting a zoo is about to change dramatically. The Next Generation Zoo concept is based on how animals use space in the wild, giving them more freedom and better using the resources…
A ban is unlikely to remove halal or kosher food from the high street. EPA/Peter Kneffel

We already have the answers to humane religious slaughter

With kosher and halal food an increasingly common feature of the British high street, a top vet has called for reform of their slaughter practices, calling them inhumane. These alternative methods of animal…
One memorable goldfish. Flickr/ Benson Kua

The goldfish test that can change your behaviour

The average Australian spends more than five hours watching YouTube every month. With such high viewership, it’s no surprise that interest groups are reaching out with YouTube to try to change people’s…
Perhaps macaques would like Angry Birds too? Jerome Micheletta, University of Portsmouth

Touch screens help monkeys relax

Zoos are great places to study animals. The non-human primates among them get the most attention from researchers. Some of them are trained to interact with computers for psychological research. In a new…
Once animals leave Australia, we have limited control over what happens to them. AAP Image/Animals Australia)

Can live animal export ever be humane?

Last week, video footage of animal cruelty kicked off yet another live export controversy. The footage appeared to show not just confronting and inappropriate animal treatment, but the likely movement…
Animal rights groups have been using drone technology to monitor farmers' compliance with welfare laws. Under US style “ag gag” laws any footage taken could not be distributed. flickr/eschipul

Expect more spy drones if ‘ag gag’ laws introduced

The “remotely operated Hexacopter drone” may sound like something out of the latest Hollywood sci-fi, but this new technology is about to take centre stage in Australia’s animal welfare debate. Drones…
Indonesian ownership of Australian cattle is a step in the right direction for both countries, but welfare still needs work. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Indonesians can buy our land but shouldn’t ship live cattle

Australians should not be alarmed but pleased at the current Indonesian proposal to invest in cattle production in the north of Australia. It demonstrates a renewed confidence in Australia’s ability to…
We love our eggs, but what about our chickens? Flickr/Neil

The truth about free range eggs is tough to crack

Queensland recently changed its regulation of free range eggs, lifting the number of hens allowed per hectare from 1,500 to 10,000. This is more than a six-fold increase. Choice and animal welfare and…
Britain’s best loved mammal, but no friend to cattle farmers. Ben Birchall/PA

Swapping science for shooting won’t save cattle or badgers

What do the pilot badger culls due to start this weekend in Gloucester and West Somerset hope to achieve? The official line is a 16% reduction of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle herds over the next…
Cruel slaughter of Australian animals in countries where abattoir workers face poor economic conditions can only be stopped with the long-term ban of live exports. Flickr/Joe Shlabotnik

Cattle slaughter in topsy turvy land

In Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree, Jo, one of the child adventurers, has a spell cast upon him that forces him to walk upside down on his hands in Topsy Turvy land. Jo survives the ordeal as most humans…
Compassionate people tend to care about other humans and animals, but our linked welfare goes beyond that. Bungalow.Brian/Flickr

Why human suffering and animal welfare are the one issue

This week we were again warned by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer that we are rapidly approaching a time when antibiotics will be largely ineffective. We are at risk of returning to a pre-antibiotic age…
Controversy over bobby calves has highlighted the fraught role of science in animal welfare. BeardyGit/Flickr

Animal welfare standards must work for all, not just industry

In medieval times the leader of a victorious army planted a standard to signify ownership of territory. The standard signified all that its supporters believed in. Similarly, the rewriting of Australia’s…
How do we know if an animal is happy? Science may be less important than public opinion. Andrew Pescod

A more democratic animal welfare policy

Even among the experts who don’t question our right to use and kill animals, there is disagreement over what animal welfare actually means. With the government calling for a review of animal welfare standards…
A dramatic decrease in the availability of sow stall pork and caged eggs has been driven by consumer concern. AAP

It’s no yolk: grocery giants commit to animal welfare initiatives

Australia’s two largest grocery retailers, Coles and Woolworths, have vowed to dramatically decrease the availability of pork and egg products sourced from intensive farming systems. The decision was made…
Vaccination has a lot more uses than you may know. Stephen Mitchell

Explainer: how are vaccines used in Australian agriculture?

Approximately 140 vaccines are registered for use in livestock and companion animals in Australia. Many more animals are vaccinated each year than humans. Vaccines are used in farm animals: to protect…
Non-human primates, like these macaques, are the animals with the closest resemblance to humans. Moyan Brenn

Scientific research on primates: what do we owe animals like us?

The documentary Maximum Tolerated Dose (showing in Melbourne tonight and Sydney on February 12) offers a “look inside modern animal experimentation with the animals who lived through it and the people…
The decisions we make about animal welfare are important; even more so if we’re welfare researchers. Jannes Pockele

Animal welfare researchers must be honest about motivations

Many people take the Christmas and New Year period as a time to ponder how they can be a better person. We make resolutions about eating better, doing exercise, being kinder or slowing down. We all know…
What are our ethical responsibilities for racing greyhounds? Jo Anne McArthur

The unbearable lightness of being a greyhound

Background Briefing’s program The Quick and the Dead exposed one of the key animal welfare issues facing the greyhound racing industry: the high rates of euthanasia of healthy dogs. During an interview…
A rat used for cancer research in the United States. Janet Stephens

The elusive ethics of animal ethics committees

More than six million animals are used in experiments in Australia each year. Many endure pain and distress, and most are killed after their use. The research community claims that our regulatory framework…
Ban Live Exports: Melbourne Rally, Saturday, 6 October 2012. Gonzalo Villaneuva

Mainstream crusade - how the animal rights movement boomed

More than a year has passed since Animals Australia and the RSPCA, in conjunction with ABC’s Four Corners revealed that Australian cattle were being routinely slaughtered in Indonesian abattoirs while…
Healthy animals, perhaps, but is it ethical to confine large wild mammals to a tank for the purposes of profit and education? Greg Lilly

Not all fun and games: the missing ethics of animals in tourism

Animals are a mainstay of global tourism development. They’re consumed in fishing and hunting, and used as part of “experiences” - horses in trail rides, marine mammals in theme parks, whale sharks for…
That’s me: Scientists agree animals are conscious, but public attitudes still lag behind. flickmor/Flickr

About time: science and a declaration of animal consciousness

Are animals conscious? Notoriously, the famous 17th century philosopher René Descartes thought they were not. He believed that possession of a soul was necessary for rational thought and for consciousness…
How do you pick a fake among free-range egg producers? OKNOVOKGHT/Flickr

Where’s the freedom to choose free-range?

Consumers are increasingly concerned about how farm animals are kept, raised, transported, and slaughtered. Most people show their concern by buying “ethical” farm products, such as free-range eggs and…
Piecemeal solutions to welfare won’t do - we need a long-term view. Ian Sanderson

Animal welfare: an urgent issue with a long, slow solution

The government has been plagued by animal welfare problems over the last two years. The biggest issue so far has been the mistreatment of our livestock overseas. Most recently, two shipments of sheep to…
Most drugs fail in clinical trials because of the reliance on animal testing to predict drug behaviour in people. Tatiana Bulyonkova

Animal research provides a flawed model, so why not stop?

Much of the research involving the development of new drugs still uses animals. Apart from moral questions about inflicting pain and death on animals for the purpose of medical research, there are an increasing…
Pastoral nostalgia: people fretted about opening-ceremony animals but not the huge out-of-sight slaughter that’s feeding athletes and spectators. AAP/Dean Lewins

Animals — the meat in the Olympic sandwich

The role of animals in the Olympics — both during the opening ceremony and throughout the wider competition — is rightly generating controversy. When it was first announced that non-human animals would…
An important ‘apex predator’ that should neither be hunted as an enemy nor treated as a pet. With respect and wisdom, we can coexist. AAP/Tony Phillips

The Australian dingo: to be respected, at a distance

It’s the dry season in the Northern Territory, and for many people that means camping under a clear winter’s sky in the Top End. Yet rediscovering nature can be a fraught exercise in wilderness areas like…
Australians have started worrying about how happy their meat cows are - but are they worrying enough to stop eating them? Jon Bragg

Health, environment and animal welfare - a recipe for peak meat

I sponsor two pigs. Emma and Eliza were runaway pigs. They escaped from a farm in Tasmania and live now happily in a farm sanctuary north of Melbourne. Needless to say that I don’t eat pigs, or any other…
Consumers have an image of animal agriculture which is getting further and further from the truth. State Records NSW

Latest animal export exposé reminds us to steer clear of factory farming

It has once again been left to an advocacy group, Animals Australia, to highlight the cruel practices involved in cattle slaughter in Indonesia. Under new rules put in place by the Federal Department of…
There are legal limits to how closely chickens can be packed, but is more space all chickens need? Alan Levine

Fewer hens doesn’t always mean happier hens

The Australian egg industry has seen a large shift in the proportion of chicken eggs coming from non-cage systems, especially free range. There is little doubt that some of this has been driven by consumer…
Guardian animals, a environmentally friendly and adorable way to protect our livestock. Karen Rodgers

Watching over livestock: our guardian animals

True innovation is rare in agriculture. Most farmers are willing to improve the way they work, but these improvements are typically small adjustments to established practice, rather than fundamental changes…
Australians' strong concerns about animal welfare put us at odds with Asian live export markets; but sharing our food production technologies gives us a potential advantage. AAP

Terms of trade: live cattle exports in the Asian Century

AUSTRALIA IN THE ASIAN CENTURY – A series examining Australia’s role in the rapidly transforming Asian region. Delivered in partnership with the Australian government. Today, Professor Clive Phillips takes…
Melbourne Zoo is using baby elephant Mali as the logo for it’s birthday celebrations. But should they be proud of her captivity? Nick Larsen

Celebrating 150 years of captivity

Have you ever felt the vibrations as an elephant stamps her foot in rage? In 2000, I was on the New South Wales Central Coast when Arna the circus elephant did just that. Arna was not happy and her distress…
Why do we care so much about the origin of brutalised cows? librarianidol/Flickr

Live exports controversy: what makes a cow Australian?

New footage recently aired on ABC has again brought to our attention the plight of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs. Scenes of cattle being poked, stabbed, and slaughtered without appropriate equipment has…
We take animals' liberty every day, but is calling them slaves accurate? Rev Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos ClintJCL/Flickr

Can an animal be a slave?

Is the confinement of animals for human purposes akin to slavery? Are some animals slaves? Slavery is an evocative concept. Treating someone as a slave is one of the worst things you can do to them. Using…
Revelations of cruelty in Australian abattoirs cause outrage, but probably not boycotts. ABC/AAP

Will consumer horror undo the meat industry?

Last year, revelations of cruelty to cows in Indonesian abattoirs led to outrage in Australia. The assumption was that these sorts of things could never happen here. Last week, a NSW abattoir was closed…
Where does it come from? Flickr/Allerina & Glen MacLarty

More animal abuse revelations – is it fair play?

We have entered a new, digital, era in animal protection, yet one in which a legislative backlash against video exposes is stirring in parts of the US. Last week brought another revelation of animal cruelty…
Pet cats are single-minded hunters, but are they wiping out native species? bolg/Flickr

Jury still out on whether cats are killers, but prison is on the cards

In “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson”, Mark Twain equated keeping a cat to domestic bliss: When there was room on the ledge outside of the pots and boxes for a cat, the cat was there – in sunny weather…
When discussing animal welfare, it’s hard to look at it from the animal’s perspective. phik

What is the value of an animal’s life?

Which is the greater deprivation for an animal: to live a good-quality life abbreviated at less than its natural term by painless slaughter for meat, or to never live at all? How much of an animal’s life…
Chimps, like humans, can relive painful memories and grieve for loved ones. tgraham

Almost human: why a laboratory is no place for great apes

Twenty years ago, Jared Diamond’s book “The Third Chimpanzee” highlighted a startling fact. If we adhere to the scientific rules for classifying species (taxonomy), humans should be classified as a third…
Beef processing contributed to Cargill’s $US2.7 billion in earnings this year. AAP

The most powerful companies you’ve never heard of: Cargill

Welcome to “The most powerful companies you’ve never heard of” – an ongoing series from The Conversation that sheds light on big companies with low profiles. Today, The University of Queensland’s Clive…
Are puppy farm protesters part of a growing wave of interest in animal rights? forced rhubarb

Australia increasingly uncomfortable with animal cruelty

I may be wrong, but recent indicators suggest animal suffering is going out of fashion. I have been tracking the ebb and flow of the animal protection movement as a first-hand observer since the late 1990s…
Four year-old Ayen Chol died after being attacked by a neighbour’s pit bull cross (AFP PHOTO/William WEST)

Breed blame-game: banning Pit Bulls won’t work

The recent death of four year-old, Ayen Chol from a pit bull attack has again prompted calls to ban the breed. But instead of focusing on a particular breed, or responding to single events as they occur…
Australians don’t know enough about Indonesia to judge its farming practices. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

Why being a better neighbour could ease our biggest political problems

We need to learn more about the countries we are exporting livestock to, or swapping refugees with. Two recent publicly-funded television documentaries have revealed just how little most Australians know…
So-called “humane” industry slaughter practices need to be investigated more carefully. AAP

Our food industry practices don’t add up

One of the more welcome results from the furore around Australia’s involvement in live animal exports is that some Australians appear to have started rethinking their food choices. Last month, The Age…
20% of people who saw the footage of animal abuse thought it was too graphic. AFP/Ho/ABC/Four Corners

Why we need an independent view of live animal exports

The decision by Animals Australia/RSPCA to allow their footage of slaughter of cattle and sheep overseas raises interesting questions about how animal welfare should be managed in this country. Was it…
Livestock may also face mistreatment without leaving Australian shores. AAP

Live animal export problems begin in our own paddock

Throughout the heated debate around live animal exports over the past week, there has been an implicit assumption that the mistreatment of Australian cattle only ever begins after the animals have left…
It may be “humane”, but is it ethical? Virginia Zuluaga/Flickr

What a pain: the ethics of killing animals humanely

Does a painless death harm an animal? Is it wrong to painlessly kill an animal? These questions go to heart of the ethics of meat eating and humane slaughter, yet they have been largely absent in most…
Before blaming Indonesia, we must reform the way we fund livestock industry research. AFP Photo/SUTANTA

Animal exports: how the industry controls research to shut down debate

Now that the Federal Government has finally succumbed to public pressure and suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia, it is worth considering why we were so caught off guard by the shocking revelations…
Indonesian abattoirs should agree to stun cows before they’re slaughtered. AAP

Live animal export ban doesn’t go far enough

The Federal Government’s move to ban live cattle exports to a handful of Indonesian abattoirs will not, in the long term, end the inhumane slaughtering practices revealed in Monday’s Four Corners report…
The trip to Indonesia is just the start of a horrifying journey for cattle. AAP

Live animal export: when others do the killing for us

Last night, the ABC’s Four Corners brought the horror of the Indonesian slaughterhouse into Australian living rooms. The government’s response to images of cattle being hacked to death, having their tails…
We’re pushing our horses to do things they’re not meant to do. AAP

Jumps racing: what a waste

On the opening day of the Warrnambool jumps carnival in western Victoria this year, five-year-old horse Casa Boy died when he fell at his first hurdle. Just one month later, Shine the Armour also died…
The legal system says that no one lives in Australia’s vegetation. John Hadley

Want to stop biodiversity loss? Give animals property rights

The destruction or modification of habitat is the leading cause of biodiversity loss in Australia and around the world. Letting animals have rights over their habitat could be the answer. Despite 40 years…

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