Livestock industry leaders have reacted with surprise to an RSPCA policy opposing the saleyard selling of cattle.
The RSCPA released its new guidelines for animal welfare in the beef cattle industry on its website last Friday, which included advice that cattle should not be "consigned through saleyards".
The organisation told Beef Central yesterday that it believed saleyard selling presented a range of animal welfare issues.
“Transport is stressful for farm animals and can cause suffering and distress,” RSCPA Scientific Officer – Farm Animals, Melina Tensen, said.
“The process of loading and unloading, the mixing with unfamiliar animals in unfamiliar environments, the unfamiliar handling, the time off feed and water all contribute to animals experiencing transport as stressful.
“So, in order to reduce this stress, transport from point of origin directly to the final destination, be that an abattoir, a feedlot or another property, is, from an animal welfare perspective, the best thing to do.
“The Guidelines are intended to convey that which is best from an animal welfare point of view.”
The policy has come as a surprise to the livestock industry, which recently worked with the RSPCA to develop new formal land standards for animal welfare.
Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association chief executive officer Andy Madigan said the RSPCA had not consulted with industry about its policy that cattle should not be sold through saleyards, and said it was surprising that the organisation did not recognise the many welfare benefits that saleyard selling provided.
He said the RSPCA’s position on saleyards was misinformed.
“Saleyards are a great thing for welfare,” he said.
“They are a great monitoring place to find out what is happening on farm, and if there are welfare issues, they will show up at saleyards and can be fixed very quickly.
“They also enable people to trade livestock frequently so that a welfare issue such as running out of water and feed doesn’t occur.
“It is all very well for them to say send them from one place to another place.
“Someone who has got two or three or four head or small numbers, or even people with large numbers, can use a marketing exchange through saleyards as a very quick and easy to avoid welfare problems.
“So I would have thought that RSPCA would be applauding saleyards.”
Mr Madigan said the RSPCA’s guidelines were only suggested guidelines.
“We strongly recommend that people follow the land standards and guidelines, and if they want to follow the RSPCA or anybody else’s guidelines, that is entirely up to them."
Future RSPCA certification scheme for beef?
The RSPCA told Beef Central yesterday that it does not yet have the resources to introduce an RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme for beef, and has launched the Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge as an alternative.
“The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme currently covers pigs, layer hens, meat chickens and turkeys,” Ms Tensen said .
“While we have had many expressions of interest from beef cattle producers to join the Scheme, the extensive nature of the industry means that at present we do not have the resources to adequately monitor compliance.
“The Guidelines and the Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge are our way of providing participating beef cattle producers with the opportunity to promote the good animal welfare work they are doing on farm to a wider audience.”
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