Australia's Sheep Shelter Shame

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URGENT ACTION REQUIRED

Australia’s Sheep Shelter Shame

While Dorothea Mackellar’s love of a sunburnt country is shared by many Australians, this may not be the case for the 70 million plus sheep and lambs sharing this nation alongside us (Meat and Livestock Australia, 2018). Unfortunately, in our nation, the legislative protection afforded to production animals such as sheep is not as rigorous as many in the general public would be led to believe.  Overseeing the wellbeing of our nation’s ovine herd are the Standards and Guidelines for Sheep Welfare, endorsed by Government in recent years, with enforceable Standards setting out required action and Guidelines being just that, guidelines for those aspiring to the industry’s best practice methods (Animal Health Australia, 2016).  

It is all too common for weather extremes to claim the lives of countless animals through lack of shade, shelter and human kindness.  It has been reported that an estimated 15 million lambs die annually in Australia, mainly from exposure to weather and lack of shelter (The Australian, 2012). Summer months too, see many more animals succumbing to the effects of heat stress.  Agriculture Victoria’s Sheep Shelter Guidelines state, “heat stress and exhaustion should not occur if sheep are able to find shade and rest during the hottest part of the day.” (Agriculture Victoria, 2017)

Whilst it cannot be claimed that all farmers and those charged with the protection and responsibility of farmed animals fail in their duty of care, a significant proportion do. A Meat and Livestock Australia report shared that in 2010, “only 12% of farmers identified lamb mortality as a welfare concern.” (Meat and Livestock Australia, 2018)

Victoria’s recent Animal Welfare Action Plan promised much for farmed animals, advising, “we work together to ensure that the welfare of all animals is protected through contemporary standards, practice and laws” and further stating the need to, “ensure that we not only protect animals from cruelty, but that we support their quality of life in our homes, on our farms, in our community and in their natural environment.” (DEDJTR, 2017) As winter has now ferociously dealt her blow on southern Australia, it appears such a kindness has not extended to pregnant ewes and their lambs, as countless reports have emerged from members of the public witnessing distressing animal cruelty and clear breaches of the Standards regarding these hapless animals.

There can be no doubt an increasing awareness and concern from mainstream Australians over the welfare of farmed animal is emerging. A report by Futureye, commissioned by the Australian Government, reveals “In Australia today, 95% of the population view farm animal welfare as a concern and 91% want at least some reform to address this.” (Futureye, 2019)  The report goes on to state the driver of this, “is an increased focus on the animal’s level of sentience and related capabilities”.

With sound science now adding to the voice of compassionate hearts, the need for adequate (at the very least) shelter and shade for farmed animals must now be made a legal imperative. Whilst the enforceable Standards call for ‘reasonable action’ to be taken to ensure sheep are protected from extreme weather events, the provision of shelter is stated as a Guideline only.  

Please add your name to our call to end Australia’s sheep shelter shame and demand shelter and shade for farmed animals be made an enforceable legal requirement. 

Let's make sure we can all once again declare, “the wide brown land for me!”

References:

1)    Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd (2018). Australia’s sheepmeat industry. North Sydney NSW.

2)    Animal Health Australia (AHA) 2014. Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines – Sheep. [online] Available at: http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/files/2011/05/Sheep-consultation-RIS-final-6-3-13.pdf [Accessed 10 Jul. 2019].

3)    The Australian (2012). End to the silence about 15 million dead lambs. [online] Available at: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/end-to-the-silence-about-15-million-dead-lambs/news-story/dcfd08eddf63e33380a5f26004c596bf [Accessed 10 Jul. 2019].

4)    Agriculture Victoria (2017) Sheep Shelter Guidelines. [online] Available at: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/sheep/handling-and-management/sheep-shelter-guidelines [Accessed 10 Jul. 2019].

5)    Meat and Livestock Australia (2018) Assessing and addressing on-farm sheep welfare. North Sydney NSW.

6)    Victorian Government Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) 2017. Animal Welfare Action Plan. Improving the Welfare of Animals in Victoria. [online] Available at: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/377123/Animal-Welfare-Action-Plan-Dec-2017.pdf [Accessed 10 Jul. 2019].

7)    Futureye (2019) Australia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare. [online] Available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/animal/farm-animal-welfare.pdf [Accessed 10 Jul. 2019].


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