It’s been over 22 years since the RSPCA’s Approved Farming Scheme was launched in 1996. In that time, we’ve seen an enormous amount of change within the agriculture industry when it comes to animal welfare and consumer expectations.
As an organisation traditionally best known for our work across the country caring for unwanted dogs, cats and other companion animals, it’s sometimes surprising for some to learn of the active role we play to improve farm animal welfare.
One thing many Australians might be surprised to hear is that the RSPCA in Australia was originally formed in Victoria in 1871 to address the welfare of working horses. Over the following decades, the organisation’s remit evolved to a wide range of other issues, including farm animal welfare.
In the absence of better legal requirements for some of Australia’s most intensively farmed animals, the Approved Farming Scheme was developed as a solution to drive better welfare standards on farm. As an organisation committed to science and evidence-based animal welfare policies, one of the most meaningful ways we can improve the lives of animals farmed for meat, dairy or eggs, is to ensure they are farmed in an environment that caters for their physical and psychological needs. Most importantly farm animals must be able to express their natural behaviours. The Scheme aims to improve the lives of as many animals as possible, today.
To participate in the Scheme, producers must adhere to our detailed animal welfare standards that go above and beyond legal requirements. Farms are assessed against the Standards at a minimum of 2 times per year.
RSPCA Standards are reviewed every five years allowing us to incrementally improve the welfare of the species included in the scheme and raise the bar for farm animal welfare in Australia.
While animals continue to be farmed for food or fibre, the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is actively improving animal welfare, and gives consumers confidence in purchasing higher welfare products.
Most importantly, millions of animals are living better lives on RSPCA Approved farms.
In practice, this means that:
- Over a million egg-laying hens have been able to live free from barren battery cages, in environments that allow them to socialize, peck, dustbathe and perch
- Over a million pigs have been raised in enriched environments, with no sow stalls or farrowing crates, meaning they have been able to wallow, play, and form social groups
- Over 2 billion meat chickens have been raised in environments with enrichment, places to perch, high quality litter, with plenty of room to flap their wings, forage and dustbathe
- Over 2 million turkeys have lived free from painful husbandry procedures like toe trimming, and in environments that encourage their natural behaviours
- Over a million farmed Atlantic Salmon have been provided with low-stress handling and a well-managed environment
- More than 1000 visits have been made to RSPCA Approved farms in 2018 alone, to assess them and ensure they are meeting the standards
- More than 800 RSPCA Approved products are now available to Australians who want to choose higher welfare meat and eggs.
You can find out more about the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme in our 2018 impact report.