Review Animal Care and Protection Act 2001
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the review of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (ACPA). Animals Need Shade is a volunteer organisation that has been operating since 2019 and in just two years has attracted 200,000 supporters and followers.
We are reassured that your discussion paper promises:
“The review will ensure the ACPA keeps pace with community expectations and modern welfare practices”.
A recent study prepared for the Federal Department of Agriculture found:
- 95 per cent of people (surveyed) view farm animal welfare to be a concern
- 91 per cent want at least some reform to address this
The national study (which included Queensland focus groups) found the major driver of this shift was “an increased focus on animals’ level of sentience and related capabilities”.
Importantly for the ACPA review, the research also found a distrust of the industry and government when it comes to the welfare of farm animals. This distrust seems to be fuelled by the perception that there is a lack of transparency and that certain information may be kept hidden intentionally, or deliberately obscured. Only 10 per cent of respondents believed current regulation was adequate.
Twenty years on from the adoption of the ACPA, the government is right to expect and acknowledge that community expectations of animal welfare have changed significantly.
Shelter and the wellbeing of animals that live outdoors
Economic costs of failing to provide adequate shade/shelter
Although somewhat dated, the thorough and often quoted St-Pierre 2003 economic analysis showed heat stress resulted in estimated losses of US$1.69 to $2.36 billion annually to the livestock industry in the United States. An average US$369 million of that was attributed to the beef industry.
A more recent study (2010/2014) put estimated losses for the dairy industry alone at US $1.5 billion.
Dairy Australia says milk production can drop by 10 to 25 per cent during heat stress. Milk composition is affected in high to severe heat stress with a decline in total protein.
Every 1 degree increase over 18 degrees equates to a daily loss of about 21,000 kg of protein. Research at one dairy farm (100 cows) estimated costs of milk losses due to heat stress from $6,838 to $11,986. The summer season also impacts on the animal’s resilience to seasonal infection and disease.
November 2017 was the second hottest November on record for Victoria with the third hottest November nights on record. The average temperature for the state was 3.1 degrees warmer than the 1961-1990 average. These conditions resulted in a significant reduction in milk production. Between the first and last weeks of November there was a 12 per cent decline in total milk production. The estimated value of the lost production for the average Victorian dairy farm was approximately $3000. Breeding Focus 2018 – Reducing Heat Stress
A study on sheep reproduction calculated the economic cost of heat stress according to two measures – (a) reduction in lambs born and (b) reduced birth weight due to sustained pregnancy heat stress. The annual national cost of heat stress is estimated at $97 million for (a) and $168m for (b) which increases to $166 million for (a) or $278 million (b) in a climate scenario of plus 3 degrees.
The cost of heat stress varies from $0 up to $15.50 per ewe depending on the region, with the maximum dollar impact increasing to $23.70 should temperatures increase by 3 degrees.
In Australia, it’s estimated that heat stress costs the feedlot industry $16.6 million annually.
Meat and Livestock Australia, collected data from 2,795,754 beef carcasses from 20 feedlots over a 6 year period 2012 to 2017. It found that environmental conditions have a statistically significant impact on the incidence of dark cutting meat.
“Dark cutting” is the term used for meat that does not bloom or brighten when it is cut and exposed to air. Beef customers prefer beef cuts to be a bright pinkish colour at retail, they avoid dark coloured meat.
The audits of MSA data suggested a greater incidence of dark cutting in feedlot cattle during summer due to environmental impacts like heat stress during hot, humid weather. Meat and Livestock says Australian temperatures are outside the normal cattle thermal comfort zones for many months of the year which is likely to have a physiological impact on the growing animal.
Animals under stress
These are some of the many, documented behaviours that indicate an animal is suffering heat pain and stress:
- search for shade and water
- stay close to water – crowd around a water trough
- stop eating
- refuse to lie down
- become restless, agitated, frenzied or lethargic, depressed
- stepping, pawing the ground
- ears back
- laboured breathing, panting, tongue lolling, drooling
- head up, neck extended
- convulse, collapse
The temperature comfort zone for cattle, pigs and goats is much lower than it is for humans.
The RSPCA describes a “thermo-neutral zone” a preferred temperature range for animals. For beef cattle (British breeds) it is 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. For horses the range is 6 – 25 degrees.
Dairy cattle will seek shade (at temperatures above 21 degrees) and increase water intake by 1.2 litres for every degree above minimum ambient temperature indicating their need for additional water and shade.
Pigs are highly susceptible to heat stress and sunburn. Victoria’s Department of Agriculture says pigs should not be exposed to long periods of direct sunlight or extremes of temperature. Providing outdoor pigs with sufficient water and mud hole areas is extremely important when temperatures are above 25 degrees.
In January 2014, vet Jakob Malmo OAM was called to a dairy farm in the Gippsland region where he witnessed something unseen in his 50-year practice as a vet. The region was suffering a heat wave and he’d already made several distressing call outs to tend heat-stressed animals.
But his reaction on arrival at this particular dairy farm was one of absolute horror – 80 cows strewn across the paddocks dead from an excessive heat load.
“I’ve seen ones and twos (die) but nothing like this devastation. We don’t want to see a repeat of this ever again.”
The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology advise that Australia is now 1.44 degrees hotter than when records began in 1910. Australia’s warmest (and driest) year on record was 2019, and the seven years from 2013 to 2019 all rank in the nine warmest.
There were 33 days that exceeded 39 degrees in 2019, more than the number observed from 1960 to 2018 combined.
Spring and November 2020 were the warmest on record for Australia. Spring temperatures last year were 2.03 degrees above average.
Future climate trends
In the future what we can expect includes:
- A decrease in cool season rainfall across many regions of the south and east, likely leading to more and longer droughts
- Continued warming, with more extremely hot days and fewer extremely cool days
- Increased frequency and duration of heat waves
- A longer fire season for the south and east and an increase in the number of dangerous fire weather days
- Fewer tropical cyclones, but a greater proportion of high intensity cyclones, with ongoing large variations from year to year
- Fewer east coast lows particularly during the cooler months of the year
Impact on our animals
According to the RSPCA, “climate change puts the welfare of Australia’s estimated 800 million farm animals at risk. Heat stress has been described as one of the most pressing challenges facing animal agriculture”.
“In a changing climate, more farm animals across a wider area will be subject to heat related illness and associated negative affective states including thirst, frustration and discomfort.”
The RSPCA reports that:
“Cattle, sheep and goats have unique physiology which makes them susceptible to a suite of complex animal welfare issues associated with climate change. Increased ambient temperatures place ruminants at higher risk of debilitating conditions. Higher ambient temperatures have been linked to painful lameness via mechanisms including: increased standing time, decreased time lying down, ruminal acidosis (increase in stomach acidity) from altered feed intake, respiratory alkalosis (decrease in blood acidity due to increased respiration rate) and altered energy balance. Higher ambient temperatures are associated with higher livestock mortality rates and in some cases, mass deaths, ”
The Climate Council says climate change must be considered in all animal welfare legislation.
Dairy Australia notes that ours is the world’s driest inhabited continent with the most variable climate. Climate change will exacerbate these conditions and the risks to dairy farm profitability. There is evidence that the 2040 scenarios for physical changes to climate are happening now in some dairy regions.
While the science is indisputable in the last quarter century or so, we’ve been making it even harder for our animals to cope.
Many areas of management, selective breeding, nutrition and environmental controls, have aimed to make our animals “more productive”. The result is often fast growing and “ high yielding” animals which already have higher, internal heat loads. All of this increases their sensitivity to hot environments.
An increased need for water will occur as climate change simultaneously makes cool drinking water scarce. In extreme cases, animals’ mental state can be altered by hyperthermia and they may be incapacitated from seeking out essential resources even where they are available”.
Young, old, pregnant or lactating animals are even more vulnerable, as are those with pre-existing conditions.
Failure to provide/shade shelter is in breach of duty of care
ACPA Chapter 3 General animal offences Part 1 Breach of duty of care 17
Breach of duty of care prohibited.
(3)For subsection (2), a person breaches the duty only if the person does not take reasonable steps to –
(a) provide the animal’s needs for the following in a way that is appropriate—
(i) food and water;
(ii) accommodation including adequate shade/shelter or comfortable living conditions for the animal;
(iii) to display normal patterns of behaviour;
(iv) the treatment of disease or injury; or
(b) ensure any handling of the animal, including any confinement or transportation of the animal, by the person, or caused by the person, is appropriate.
(4) In deciding what is appropriate, regard must be had to—
(a) the species, environment and circumstances of the animal; and
(b) the steps a reasonable person in the circumstances of the person would reasonably be expected to have taken.
Animals Need Shade is calling on the government to amend its Duty of Care provisions to include “adequate shade/shelter” in accommodation or living conditions for the animal”. Shade/shelter must be mandatory. Living conditions must provide comfort and security for the animal.
Any handling, confinement, transportation of an animal must be done without causing harm. Treatment for disease or injury must be delivered in a timely and effective way. Animal welfare must not be limited to what is considered reasonable at the time.
Minimum (species specific) standards of shade/shelter (as required in accommodation) must be outlined in codes. They must consider each species’ capacity to tolerate extremes in weather. The standards must reflect best, independent research on planting of trees (and other vegetation) and construction of shade shelters. Shade shelter must be provided wherever animals live or are kept – including feedlots, saleyards and holding pens, open paddocks and yards.
Mandatory codes must empower inspectors to investigate and as necessary prosecute with penalties commensurate with the degree of neglect.
Standards and Codes must reflect higher standards
ACPA Chapter 1 Part 2, Division 4 Purposes and application of the Act
As the ACPA is the enabling legislation for the formation of Codes etc, it must reflect a high standard of animal welfare. Rather than seeking the “balance between the welfare of animals and the interests of persons whose livelihood is dependent on animals” the ACPA must require responsible care of animals and this should be reflected in Codes.
Codes can be used as a defence to acts of cruelty (eg. allowing castration or teeth clipping without anaesthetic) that are not permitted for companion animals. This means farm animals are outside the protection afforded by main animal welfare legislation like the ACPA.
Dr Steven White senior lecturer, Griffith Law School says that while codes of practice may be tabled in Parliament, as regulations they are generally subject to very little or no parliamentary scrutiny.
“This means that the issue of who authors the standards is very important. In Australia, both historically and under current processes, codes of practice are essentially made by those with a direct stake in the profitability of the agricultural sector – farm industry groups and agricultural departments.”
For example, the government is adopting the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for cattle and sheep as well as saleyards and depots.
Animals Australia says the standards and guidelines continue to permit cruel and outdated practices
The Queensland Government has the ability to review and improve those standards before adopting them but has chosen not to do so, unlike the West Australian Government, which has invited public discussion
Animals Need Shade is calling on the government to set higher standards of animal welfare within the ACPA and ensure those standards are reflected in the codes. Animals Need Shade opposes codes of practice that contain minimum standards developed by industry to circumvent proscriptions in animal welfare laws.
The purpose of animal welfare laws is not to facilitate the use of animals, but to protect them against it.
Guidelines for shelter must be outlined within mandatory codes. They must be species specific.
This could include:
- Natural belt tree planting that provides adequate foliage and canopy coverage for all paddocked animals to obtain shelter with capacity to lie down simultaneously without overcrowding, stand and move about freely under shade protection.
- Durable artificial structures that provide protection from strong UV rays. Shelters must also protect from wind chill, hail and sun, allow good airflow without overcrowding and the ability for all animals to lie down simultaneously, stand and move about freely.
- Materials used in artificial shelters must be light coloured to reflect the sun.
- Andy shade structure must offer sufficient protection to reduce scattered solar UV rays.
- Adequate air flow must be provided in all shade structures.
Shade from trees can form part of a long-term strategy for managing climate variability. The shade and shelter provided by trees in paddocks and laneways can reduce the radiant heat load by 50 per cent and more. Tree belts provide shade and protection from wind and allow cows different options for cooling and better control over their heat loads.
Since providing shade can require relatively minimal capital investments which can be stretched over multiple years, financial gains associated with the reduction in heat stress and improvement in performance can offset and be greater than the cost of providing artificial shade, especially in areas that are prone to greater heat loads.
Benefits of shade/shelter
A study of low vegetation, shrubs and hedgerows in Victoria found improved survival rates for lambs of up to 15 per cent for vulnerable twin lambs and 30 per cent for single births.
Sustainable Farms (part of Australian National University’s ecology group) reports that in one study the presence of belt tree planting resulted in increased wool production by almost a third and a 21 per cent increase in sheep live-weight over a 5 year period.
According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) shade alleviates mortality, fear and distress during heat wave conditions.
- dairy cattle provided with increased shade under pasture situations during summer spent twice as much time under shade (25 per cent versus 50 per cent) and showed less aggressive interactions.
- Brahman cross cattle with access to roofed shade had reduced stress hormones, reduced respiration rate, improved hydration and greater feed intake, gain and efficiency.
- Angus steers at a trial feedlot found cattle with access to shade had 3 per cent greater dry food intake and a 1.9 per cent increase in hot carcase weight at the processing plant.
- Feeding cattle under shade over summer, results in a $20 a head increase in profit.
The Qld Department of Agriculture advises producers to “allow access to shade throughout the day. Provide shade in feed-out areas, grazing areas and over the milking yards. Shade can reduce a cow’s heat load from the environment by up to 50%. “
Entwistle et al.  reported that during a heat wave, shade reduced the impact of severe conditions on excessive heat load related deaths, whereas unshaded pens had a higher, 5.8 per cent mortality rate compared with shaded pens, 0.2 per cent. ?????Check origin of this
Much more than numbers
It’s clear that reducing mortality is a major benefit from shade shelter provision. It’s equally clear that death is a pretty crude measure of animal welfare.
Animal welfare is multifaceted and includes many other components beyond health and performance that should be considered in determining the need to provide shade.
It is now widely accepted that good welfare is not simply the absence of negative experiences, but is primarily the presence of positive experiences such as pleasure.
That means it is better to ensure joyful and contented behaviours rather than focusing on behaviours that represent needs that have to be fulfilled to avoid suffering.
The Australian Capital Territory has become the first Australian jurisdiction to accept animal sentience – recognising that animals feel pain, fear, discomfort and pleasure.
The Victorian Government is also considering animal sentience in a review of its more than 30-year-old Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The Victorian Government says it is “ modernising animal welfare laws in line with community expectations” recognising that “animal welfare includes the mental and physical health of an animal. Good animal welfare is achieved through humane, reasonable and respectful treatment”.
Animals Need Shade urges the Queensland Government to include recognition of animal sentience in the new ACPA. That is – animals are capable of being aware of their surroundings, their relationships with other animals and humans, as well as being capable of understanding their own bodily sensations including pain, fear, discomfort and pleasure.
A national study conducted by Futureye for the Federal Department of Agriculture found in quantitative research that 55 to 56 per cent of people surveyed believed cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were sentient.
“Consistent with this belief in sentience is the recognition that animals possess certain capabilities. Quantitative data revealed that 57 per cent believed animals had awareness of bodily sensations such as pain, heat, cold, hunger; 56 per cent believed they possessed the capacity to experience stress; 47 per cent felt animals had awareness of their surroundings; and 45 per cent felt animals had the capacity to experience joy and pleasure”.
Further, the report says “this sentiment is expressed in the quantitative results, revealing high levels of agreement on rights and freedoms for animals, particularly relating to freedom from pain and cruelty. Specifically, this included the right not to be subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering; freedom from thirst and hunger; pain, injury and disease; fear and distress and from discomfort by providing appropriate environment, shelter and comfortable resting areas”.
As the government has made clear that the ACPA review will ensure the legislation keeps pace with community expectations and modern welfare practices, sentience must be part of the new ACPA.
This must not be restricted to companion animals and must be reflected in all codes and standards enabled by the ACPA.
Animals Need Shade appreciates the opportunity to take part in the review of the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. Our volunteers and supporters believe that changes to the ACPA must include:
- mandatory shade shelter for all animals that are kept outdoors
- minimum standards set for shade shelter (natural and built)
- enforcement of requirements and standards
- regular inspections of the places where animals are kept to ensure animal welfare standards are being met
- a higher standard of animal welfare, reflected in all codes and regulations
- recognition of animal sentience
As previously noted the review of the ACPA is a rare opportunity to make significant improvements to the way animals are treated and to bring standards and codes into line with community attitudes. As the research indicates, thinking has shifted immeasurably since the Act was introduced 20 years ago. PUNCH LINE ??????
As proof of its commitments to improve animal welfare in line with changing community expectations, Animals Need Shade urges that the government to review and invite public comment on the Australia Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.
Economic losses due to heat stress
Effects of heat stress