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Animal welfare and rights in Australia

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Sheep in Australia

This article is about the treatment of and laws concerning non-human animals in Australia. Australia has moderate animal protections by international standards.[1]

National legislation[edit]

There is little national animal welfare legislation in Australia; most animal welfare regulations are at the state and territory level.[1]

The Australian Animal Welfare Strategy developed a framework for the adoption of a single animal welfare regulation model to be adopted by each state and territory government. This resulted in regulations for the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for the Land Transport of Livestock, which have been implemented in every state except Western Australia. The Advisory Committee related to the Strategy has been disbanded, and the responsibility for further developing the Strategy has been handed over to the states and territories and national funding for animal welfare withdrawn.[1]

In 2014 Australia received a C out of possible grades A,B,C,D,E,F,G on World Animal Protection's Animal Protection Index.[1]

State legislation[edit]

New South Wales[edit]

Australian state laws on killing cats or dogs for consumption[2]
Killing cats or dogs is legal
Killing cats or dogs is illegal

The New South Wales 1979 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act prohibits cruelty to animals and creates a duty of care in animal users. These protections cover vertebrates as well as crustaceans invertebrates. The Act provides for the development of regulations relating to different species of farm animals, and codes for some species have been made.[1]

South Australia[edit]

The 1985 Animal Welfare Act of South Australia prohibits "intentionally, unreasonably, or recklessly causing an animal unnecessary harm", and creates a duty of care in animal owners. This applies to vertebrates except fish. Mandatory standards on specified species, transport, saleyards, and slaughter are incorporated under the Animal Welfare Regulations 2012.[1] It is the only state to outlaw killing dogs or cats for consumption.[3]


Victoria's 1986 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act prohibits cruelty to all vertebrates and all adult decapod crustaceans. There are mandatory codes on conditions for keeping domestic animals, transport, and slaughter.[1]

Australian Capital Territory[edit]

The Australian Capital Territory's 1992 Animal Welfare Act prohibits cruelty by intentionally causing pain or failing to act. The law applies to vertebrates and cephalopods, as well as crustaceans intended for human consumption. With regard to farm animals, the Act prohibits debeaking and keeping commercial laying hens and pigs in "accommodation that is not appropriate", and provides for codes of practice on issues such as transport and slaughter to be made.[1]


Tasmania's 1993 Animal Welfare Act prohibits doing or failing to do any act which causes or is likely to cause unreasonable and unjustifiable pain or suffering to an animal. This applies to vertebrates. The Act provides Standards and Guidelines on the welfare of different species including during transport and slaughter.[1]

Northern Territory[edit]

The 2000 Animal Welfare Act of the Northern Territory prohibits causing unnecessary suffering and creates a duty of care. The Act does not specifically address farm animal welfare. However, the Northern Territory Livestock Act 2009 regulate welfare during transport to slaughter.[1]


Queensland's 2001 Animal Care and Protection Act prohibits acts of cruelty and creates a duty of care, which applies to vertebrates and to prescribed cephalopods and malacostraca. There are compulsory codes on livestock transport and partly compulsory codes on pigs and poultry.[1]

Western Australia[edit]

In Western Australia, the 2002 Animal Welfare Act prohibits acts of cruelty and causing unnecessary harm, including by abandonment. The law covers vertebrates other than fish. Western Australia's Animal Welfare (General) Regulations 2003 provide guidance on the welfare of animals during transport and slaughter as well as the welfare of specific species.[1]

Animal welfare issues[edit]

Animal agriculture[edit]

Each year, 520-620 million animals are killed in Australian slaughterhouses: 460-550 million broiler chickens, 3-5 million turkeys, 8 million ducks, 4-5 million pigs, 11-12 million layer hens, 4 million bulls, bullocks, and steers, 10 million cattle, 700,000-900,000 calves, 5-7 million sheep, and 17-19 million lambs. A further 12 million male chicks are culled, and many more animals die on farms, including an estimated 15 million lambs who die each year within 48 hours of birth due to inadequate protection from harsh weather.[4]

The majority of these animals (around 500 million annually) are farmed intensively.[5] De-beaking, de-toeing, tail-docking, tooth pulling, castration, and dehorning of livestock without anaesthetic are not illegal (though debeaking is prohibited in the Australian Capital Territory), nor is confinement in veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages.[1]

In 2014, Australia produced 152,210 tons of wild-caught sea animals and 74,913 tons of aquaculture animals.[6]

Live export of animals[edit]

A live export ship in Fremantle, Western Australia

Australia is the world's largest live exporter of animals for slaughter. The trade involved over three million animals in 2011 valued at approximately A$1 billion, of which the majority were cattle and sheep.as of 2014.[7]

The export of live animals from Australia has generated some controversy, with animal rights organisations such as Animals Australia asking it to be banned on the grounds that certain countries where animals are shipped have no laws to protect them from cruelty. In 2011, the Gillard government briefly suspended the trade and came close to a ban.[8] Exports have since resumed.

Animal product consumption[edit]

In 2014 Australia surpassed the United States as the world's highest per-capita consumer of land-animal meat (beef, veal, pork, chicken, and lamb), at 90.21 kilograms per person. This figure has been rising over the past two decades, up from 77 kilograms per person in 1979.[9] Annual per capita seafood consumption is approximately 25 kg.[10] In 2013/14 Australians ate 213.3 eggs per capita[11] and drank 105 liters of milk per capita.[12] Studies have found that meat consumption is heavily linked with obesity, cancer and diabetes.[13]

Veganism and vegetarianism[edit]

In 2010 the Vegetarian/Vegan Society of Queensland Incorporated conducted a survey of 1202 Australians in which 5% identified as vegetarian and 1% identified as vegan. However, based on respondent reports of what foods they had recently eaten, only 2% actually ate a vegetarian diet (no animal flesh) and only 1 respondent ate a vegan diet (no animal products).[14]

As of March 2016, 11.2% of people living in Australia, 2.1 million people, said "The food I eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian."[15] The report also found that vegetarians were likely to be slimmer; while 60.7% of Australian adults have a Body Mass Index that qualifies as overweight or obese, this figure drops to 45.4% of those whose diet is mostly or totally vegetarian.

Humane slaughter[edit]

Animals Australia and RSPCA Victoria state that all animals should be stunned prior to slaughter because of the suffering they experience during their slaughter. According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, "Australia's state and territory governments have primary responsibility for animal welfare and laws to prevent cruelty".[16] Four abattoirs in the state of Victoria, Australia have government exemptions allowing them to slaughter animals without prior stunning. These abattoirs are : "Hardwick's Meat Works" of Kyneton;[17] "GA Gathercole" of Carrum; "Mc Herd" of Geelong; and "Midfield Meats" of Warrnambool.[citation needed]

Animals used in research[edit]

According to Humane Research Australia (HRA) approximately 7 million animals were used in research and teaching in Australia in 2014, up from around 6.5 million in 2004. Statistics from four Australian states indicate that 6,613 dogs, 2,183 cats, 676,066 "native mammals" (including koalas, wallabies, possums, and wombats), 202 primates, 2,023,834 mice, 113,158 rats, 333,922 sheep, and 425,994 domestic fowl (including chickens and ducks) and 384,225 birds, 315,328 fish, 83,922 amphibians, 30,698 reptiles, and 684,107 "other aquatic animals" were used. HRA notes that there is no national collection of animal use statistics, and that these are "very conservative" figures.[18][19]

In 2016, following HRA and the Humane Society International's Be Cruelty-Free campaign, the Australian government pledged to ban testing cosmetics on animals and the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals.[20]

Animal activism[edit]

Animals Australia is an organization whose activities include public advertising on issues related to farm animal welfare, undercover investigations of animal farming operations, and corporate outreach. Their corporate campaigns resulted in cage-free egg commitments from McDonald's and Subway. Animals Australia is currently one of Animal Charity Evaluators' (ACE) Standout Organizations.[21]

World Animal Protection is an organisation that works to build a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty has ended. Their work focuses on making sure the Australian Government and companies operating in Australia are doing their part to protect the 70 billion animals born in farming each year. The organisation also works to protect animals against abuse in the region, as well as protect sea animals from abandoned fishing nets and other threats.[1]

Animal Liberation is an Australian animal protection group founded in 1976 whose mission is "to work toward the end of suffering of exploited and confined animals, through legislation, consumer advocacy, action and humane education."[22] Animal Liberation Victoria (ALV) is a particularly active branch which has conducted highly publicized open rescues of farm animals, protests against animal farming including blocking transport trucks and ships, and vegan education.[23]

Their recent activism includes a release of undercover investigation footage showing the painful deaths of pigs killed by carbon dioxide in Victorian slaughterhouses in late 2015, alongside activists chaining themselves to slaughterhouses.[24] ALV is critical of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for its Approved Farming Scheme—which, according to ALV, supports cruel animal farms—and serving "BBQ along with the eggs of abused chickens" at fundraisers.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n World Animal Protection (2 November 2014). "Australia". Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  2. ^ "Is eating cats or dogs legal? – RSPCA Knowledgebase". Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Is eating cats or dogs legal? – RSPCA Knowledgebase". Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  4. ^ Aussie Farms. "The Facts". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  5. ^ Brightside Farm Sanctuary. "Factory Farming". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  6. ^ Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (December 2015). "Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Live Animal Exports in Context".
  8. ^ Lentini, Rosemarie. "Julia Gillard halts live cattle exports to Indonesia".
  9. ^ Inga Ting (27 October 2015). "Australia is the meat-eating capital of the world". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Australian Seafood Overview". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  11. ^ Australian Egg Corporation Limited Annual Report 2014: Egg Industry Overview as at June 2014. Australian Egg Corporation Limited. 2014. p. 3. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  12. ^ Dairy Australia. "Consumption summary". Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  13. ^ Wang, Y; Beydoun, MA (2009). "Meat consumption is associated with obesity and central obesity among US adults". International Journal of Obesity. 33 (6): 621–628. doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.45. PMC 2697260. PMID 19308071.
  14. ^ "A Pound of Flesh" (PDF). voiceless.org.au. The Vegetarian/Vegan Society of Queensland Incorporated. February 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  15. ^ "The slow but steady rise of vegetarianism in Australia". Roy Morgan. August 2016. Archived from the original on 7 March 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Animal welfare". www.agriculture.gov.au.
  17. ^ "Religious ritual slaughter faces review". 4 August 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  18. ^ Humane Research Australia. "Statistics of Animal Use in Research and Teaching in Australia". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  19. ^ Humane Research Australia. "2014 Australian Statistics of Animal Use in Research & Teaching". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  20. ^ Humane Society International (3 June 2016). "Australia to ban cosmetics animal testing and trade". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  21. ^ Animal Charity Evaluators (29 June 2016). "Animals Australia Review". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  22. ^ Animal Liberation. "About Animal Liberation". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  23. ^ Animal Liberation Victoria. "About ALV". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  24. ^ Hamblin, Andrea (6 December 2015). "Animal Liberation Victoria claims pigs suffer horrific deaths when killed using carbon dioxide". Herald Sun. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  25. ^ Animal Liberation Victoria (14 May 2016). "RSPCA Betrayal". Retrieved 8 July 2016.