The State Government is set to change the way animals are treated in Queensland. It’s announced a review of the 20-year-old Animal Care and Protection Act.
But an animal advocacy group says it’s ignoring one of the Sunshine State’s most basic animal welfare needs – adequate shade and shelter.
Animals Need Shade is petitioning the Queensland Government to make shade/shelter mandatory for all farm animals, set minimum standards and conduct regular animal welfare checks.
Inadequate shelter and heat stress were among the top animal cruelty complaints the RSPCA received last year. In 2020, 1,116 emergency calls to the Queensland RSPCA were related to heat stress, including animals left without access to shade and water. When responding to general complaints about neglect, inspectors often find animals stranded in paddocks with no shade or shelter.
The RSPCA says Queensland’s heat is deadly.
The petition has received the support of Melbourne-based Philip Wollen, OAM, renowned former merchant banker turned animal welfare advocate.
“I travel 20,000km throughout the Australian countryside every year,” says Philip Wollen. “What I see every day as we drive past vast open paddocks in Australia are no trees, blazing heat and distressed, parched and panting animals.
“Every paddock has been cleared of trees. Occasionally I see a paddock with a single tree, under which 100 or so parched animals stand, and clustered around them in the blazing sun will be 1,000 more – with not a single shadow to protect them. This is an atrocity and laws must be changed to force people to provide adequate shelter and shade for their charges.”
According to Animals Need Shade many people don’t realise that animals suffer from heat stress at much lower temperatures than we do.
The RSPCA describes a “thermo-neutral zone” a preferred temperature range for animals. For beef cattle (British breeds) it’s 15 – 25 degrees, beef cattle (tropical breeds) 16 – 27 degrees, dairy cattle 5-20 degrees, goats 10 – 20 degrees, pigs 16 to 25 degrees and sheep 21 – 31 degrees.
Dairy cows will seek shade when temperatures reach 21 degrees and increase water intake by 1.2 litres for every degree above minimum ambient temperature.
Pregnant, lactating animals as well as the old and the young are especially susceptible to heat stress. High humidity and ground temperatures all add to the heat load.
According to the Queensland Department of Agriculture – “ Shade can reduce a cow’s heat load from the environment by up to 50%”. It recommends that people who care for animals “allow access to shade throughout the day. Provide shade in feed-out areas, grazing areas and over milking yards”.
Research from organisations like Meat and Livestock Australia, departments of agriculture through to the RSPCA all show this clearly – shade and shelter are essential to reduce heat stress in animals.
Despite the evidence, there are no mandatory requirements for owners and carers to provide adequate shade/shelter. There is no minimum requirement for shade or shelter.
“This results in severe suffering”, according to Australian-born veterinarian Andrew Knight, Professor of Animal Welfare at Winchester University in the UK.
“All farm animals are sentient, sensitive animals, capable of feeling pain, stress and fear. Being exposed to excessive sunlight can be highly stressful and decrease their health and welfare. Such systematic lack of care is indicative of the widespread exploitation these animals endure.”
Australia’s warmest (and driest) year on record was 2019, and the seven years from 2013 to 2019 all rank in the nine warmest. Australia is now 1.44 degrees hotter than when records began in 1910.
The Bureau of Meteorology says we can expect continued warming, with more extremely hot days and increased frequency and duration of heat waves.
The climate council says climate change must be considered in all animal welfare legislation.
Animals Need Shade is calling on the government to:
- insert mandatory requirements in all relevant legislation, regulations and codes for adequate shade/shelter for animals kept outdoors (including at saleyards, holding pens and depots)
- include a clear and unambiguous definition of adequate shade/shelter
- introduce penalties for owners and carers who fail to comply
- adequately police the legislation
- regularly inspect areas where animals are kept to ensure standards are being met
“Let’s convince the government to give farm animals the basic right to shade and shelter. Many people are unaware of the statistics on deaths, and the serious physical and psychological distress suffered by animals unprotected from an Australian climate, where heatwaves are becoming the new normal. Together our voices will help stop suffering and change laws!” Animals Need Shade advocates say.
Bureau of Meteorology
Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO – State of the Climate
Vets for Climate Action
Climate change Impact on livestock and how we can adapt – Umberto Bernabucci
Lacetera N (2019) Impact of Climate Change on Animal Health and Welfare
RSPCA – Climate change and animal welfare
Dairy New Zealand
Queensland Department of Agriculture
Science direct – Effect of heat stress on dairy cattle welfare