Animal advocates have lodged a petition in the Queensland Parliament, urging a change in the law to protect heat-stressed livestock, as temperatures in the state get ready to rise during summer.
Australia is in the midst of a climate crisis. Record temperatures have made headlines around the world. While the heat may be good news for some in our beach-loving country, it has devastating consequences for millions of farmed animals routinely kept outdoors in paddocks, saleyards, holding pens and feedlots with little to no shade. Queenslanders fear lack of no shade/shelter for farm animals is an animal welfare crisis. The team at Animals Need Shade are leading the charge in calling for mandatory legislation to force owners of farm animals in all states across Australia to provide adequate shelter for cows, sheep, horses, goats and other farm animals through their newly launched ‘Animals Need Shade’ campaign. In 2019 a petition was lodged on the Queensland Parliament’s website urging the government to insert mandatory requirements into the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 for adequate shelter for farm animals kept outdoors, including a definition of ‘adequate shelter’, and to introduce penalties for owners and carers who fail to provide adequate shelter for their outdoor farm animals. Animals need Shade now have the support of over 130,000 supporters who have signed other online petitions with https://www.thepetitionsite.com/803/036/238/make-shade-shelter-mandatory-for-all-farm-animals-now-a-second-e-petition-for-aussie-queenslaners/ and https://www.change.org/p/minister-for-agricultural-industry-development-and-fisheries-make-shade-shelter-mandatory-for-all-farm-animals-living-outdoors/u/23876507 Animals Need Shade have the support of leading animal advocates, including former vice-president of Citibank and philanthropist Philip Wollen, OAM, veterinarian and professor Andrew Knight, and former Rockhampton RSPCA president Elizabeth Shanahan.“I remember how hot it was last summer in Canungra, Beaudesert and Boonah and how I couldn’t stand in the sun for more than five minutes without feeling the brunt of this shocking heat,” says Elek, who lives in the Scenic Rim. “The sight of Farm Animals exposed and suffering from the extreme heat of the sun without shade or shelter is unfortunately common throughout Queensland.” Animals Need Shade campaigners are concerned about all farm animals and point out that that cows suffer even more in the heat than humans, especially without shade. Studies show dairy cows look for shade when temperatures reach 25°C. The average annual temperature in many parts of Queensland is 29°C. In 2017 even southern regions such as Gatton recorded 141 days where temperatures reached over 30°C. In 2019 the number of day over 30 degrees in Gatton WAS????? In 2019 and 2020 Australia has broken records and is viewed as one of the most at risk countries in the world from the effects of climate change.
Despite the Queensland government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) acknowledging the impact of heat stress on farm animals and recommending shelter and shade, it is not mandatory for owners of farm animals to provide these basic requirements. Dr Grant Newell an Extension Vet at the IOWA UNIVERSITY states in his article Heat stress in Cattle that “Cattle should not wait in processing areas longer than 30 minutes when it is hot.” Speaking about cattle in an interview with Living the Country Life, David Sparks, an extension veterinarian from Oklahoma State University, warns: “If you’re uncomfortable, the herd is too hot, and if you’re too hot, the herd is in serious danger.” Sparks explains that cattle don’t sweat and have an upper critical temperature that is around 20 degrees cooler than humans. “So that means if it is 80 °F [26.6 °C] outside it feels like 100°F [37.7°C] to cattle. They are also affected more seriously by humidity.”
This results in severe suffering, according to Australian-born veterinarian Andrew Knight, Professor of Animal Welfare at Winchester University in the UK. “Farm animals are sentient, sensitive animals, capable of feeling pain, stress and fear,” says Knight. “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.”
Dairy NZ notes that Fresian cows (approximately 83% of dairy cows in Australia are Fresian) begin to experience the effects of heat stress when the temperature reaches 68°F (21°C) at 75% relative humidity.
Elizabeth Shanahan, former Rockhampton President of the RSPCA for 20 years, is also deeply concerned about the lack of appropriate shelter for outdoor farm animals. “From my experience very little has been done to protect farm animals from the elements,” says Shanahan. “Complaints about the treatment of farm animals are rarely, if ever, prosecuted. Something must change and soon to protect these vulnerable forgotten animals. The Queensland community expects laws that protect all animals. Laws must be upgraded and enforceable, to ensure the basic right to shade and shelter for all farm animals.”
The petition lodged by Animals Need Shade advocates with the Queensland government has also received the support of Melbourne-based Philip Wollen, OAM, renowned former merchant banker turned philanthropist. “I travel 20,000km throughout the Australian countryside every year,” says 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. I often see animals lying dead on the ground. 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 farmers to provide adequate shelter and shade for their charges.”
Animals Need Shade is calling on fellow Queenslanders to ‘sign and share’ the petition “to give farm animals the basic right to shade and shelter. The public are unaware of the statistics on deaths, and the serious physical and psychological distress suffered by animals who are 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.
Petition lodged with QLD government:
Radio Interview with ABC Radio Australia:
Other relevant links:
(Please note that the deaths of Farm Animals is not often publicized and information not readily available)