Each year, around one billion animals (including over 15 million farmed fish) are transported within Australia either for slaughter, for export or further finishing. Transport is generally accepted to be stressful to animals. During transport, animals are often deprived of food and water, are subject to temperature extremes, can be physically injured, are mixed with unfamiliar animals, are in close confinement, and are confronted with novel situations.
The transport of animals in Australia is a complex issue: this is a vast country with a variety of geographical and climatic regions and a broad and diverse animal production industry ranging from cattle and sheep to farmed fish. There is also considerable variation in the distances travelled between farms and processing or other destinations. An assessment of the effects of these factors on welfare is impeded by a lack of reported data on individual land transport journeys. This also makes it difficult to monitor compliance with regulations and codes of practice, amend standards and inform consumers about actual practices.
The two main transport scenarios in Australia are the land transport of animals by road and the export of livestock by sea.
Current thinking dictates that animal welfare standards should be science based, but this assumes that there is sufficient research in a given area to provide us with useful answers. The seminar aimed to identify gaps in our knowledge of the impact of transport, and provide some direction for future research. It also looked at how Government, industry and retailers/consumers can influence the direction of animal welfare improvements, including nationally consistent standards.
Speakers at the Seminar examined recent research on the physiological impact of transport on animals, and the factors that influence our understanding of what is an ‘appropriate' transport process. Case studies highlighted specific welfare aspects of land and sea transport of livestock, as well as transport of farmed fish in the aquaculture sector. The importance of developing nationally consistent standards for animal welfare and the incorporation of animal welfare in industry quality assurance schemes was also discussed. Finally, the Seminar touched on the influence of the consumer and the retail sector on welfare developments in animal transport.
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