What is animal cruelty and animal welfare?
Animal cruelty is any act that causes unnecessary or unreasonable harm to an animal while animal welfare is what mechanisms we have in place protect animals from such acts of cruelty. It extends far beyond our furry friends at home. Many of our products and services depend on animals to some extent. It’s a problem in industries like food and clothing, zoos, circuses, movies and TV, and other animal attractions.
From ducks that are live-plucked for their down to farmed chickens that never see the sun to animals being farmed and killed for their furs, animal cruelty permeates our economy.
The Rise of Animal Rights in Australia
Concern for animal rights started in Australia in the late 1800s. The first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opened in 1871 in Victoria. Over the next 20 years, other territories followed suit.
Presently, Australia has a number of animal rights regulations at the territory level, including the 1992 Animal Welfare Act in the Capital region, the 1979 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in New South Wales, the 2000 Animal Welfare Act in the Northern Territory, the 2002 Animal Welfare Act in Western Australia, the 2001 Animal Care and Protection Act in Queensland, the 1985 Animal Welfare Act in South Australia, the 1986 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in Victoria, and the 1993 Animal Welfare Act in Tasmania.
In 2014, the World Animal Protection organisation ranked Australia a score of C (on a scale from A to G) on the Animal Protection Index.
The Biggest Issues & Why They Are Important
1. Unnecessary Cruelty in Food Industries
The meat and dairy industry relies entirely on animals, and for the most part, these creatures have a short, terrible existence. For example, cows and pigs stand in their own poop clustered tightly together with hundreds of others. Growth hormone chickens grow so large that they cannot support their own weight to stand. Not to mention, the slaughtering process is terrifying.
Just a quick search on Youtube for “animal cruelty in the food industry” will show you the horrors (warning: very graphic) these animals endure so that we can have meat, milk, eggs, and cheese.
Why It’s Important
Some argue this is a necessary evil. It isn’t. We don’t have to raise animals this way. There are alternative, more humane methods to raise livestock, and some farms are already practicing them. In reality, these conditions are caused by the chase for lower costs and more efficiency. It’s a greedy setup.
2. Killing Animals Because It’s Cool to Wear
Some animals are exploited for their furs or skins:
- Leather. Leather is most commonly made from the skin of cows and their calves.
- Hides/Skins. Reptile animals like snakes, alligators, and crocodiles are hunted to make boots, belts, and purses.
- Down. Down is plucked from ducks and geese while they are still alive and then used in coats, blankets, and pillows.
- Furs. Fur farms raise animals, such as minks, rabbits, foxes, chinchillas, raccoons, beavers and lynxes, specifically to kill them for fur.
- Wool. Though sheep are not killed directly for their wool, the mistreatment of the sheep in wool production commonly results in suffering and death.
- Silk. Silk is made from silkworm larvae. In harvesting, the insects are steamed or gassed alive inside their cocoons. Approximately three thousand silkworms die to make every pound of silk.
Why It’s Important
Buying these “exotic” or high-end products results in the needless death and suffering of countless creatures.
3. Animal Testing
All over the world product tests are conducted on animals before being declared safe for humans. Labs study things like toxicity, carcinogenicity, or bodily irritation. As a consequence, animals suffer and some are killed and dissected so that scientists can study the effects in great detail. Mice and rats are the most common, but tests are also done on hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, cats, monkeys, frogs, sheep, and cattle.
You probably have products sitting in your cabinets and in your purse that have been tested on animals—things like cosmetics, household products, food ingredients, and drugs. Though Australian cosmetic companies don’t test their products on animals, some imported brands do. These imported products end up sitting on the same shelves.
Why It’s Important
Millions suffer and die because companies and labs believe the animals are humans-like enough to be test subjects but “not human-like enough” to deserve humane treatment. Since there are reliable, more affordable alternative testing methods, this is not necessary. Buying animal-tested products supports the companies which continue this vicious practice.
4. Live Export
Australian-raised livestock are protected under our slaughterhouse regulations, but not all animals raised here stay here. Many are live exported to other countries with less humane slaughtering practices. RSPCA argues the animals can be brutally butchered in the streets, snuck away and stuffed into car trunks and small trucks for transport, and slaughtered without first being stunned.
Why It’s Important
In other words, Australian-raised animals are subject to extreme cruelty in areas where our laws cannot protect them. RSPCA is now demanding that we transition away from live animal export to an expanded chilled and frozen meat trade.
Take Action: How to Be Cruelty-free When You Shop
If this breaks your heart, you aren’t alone.
Luckily, things are changing. Individuals, companies, and nonprofit organisations are standing up against animal cruelty. That’s why we support brands that take a strong stance on animal rights.
You can too!
Look for companies that embody cruelty-free values and practices:
Choose cruelty-free (CCF) is an Australian accreditation for cruelty-free companies. To use the CCF logo, a company must not have used animal testing for the last 5 years and must adhere to strict ingredient guidelines.
Vegan is lifestyle in which you eliminate all ingredients or materials derived from animal sources or those that were animal-tested. For example, a vegan does not eat meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products; does not use cosmetics that have been tested on animals; and does not wear or sleep on materials stuffed with down.
More and more companies and restaurants are providing vegan-approved offerings. Look for these certifications:
No Live Export. You can support RSPCA’s efforts to demand that the Australian Government introduce No Live Export regulations.
Certified Free Range. Free range animals are raised in a natural environment with freedom of movement. Help support free range farmers:
- Free Range Farmers Association is a nonprofit group that certifies commercial egg farmers operating in Victoria.
- FREPA certifies Australian producers of chicken, turkey, and eggs.
- APIQ Free Range is a certification for pig producers.
- Humane Choice True Free Range is an free range accreditation for growers of pigs, poultry, cattle, and sheep.
RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme supports farmers with a dedication to improving animal welfare on their farms.
Pledges. Companies can publicly pledge not to use leather, silk, mulesing, fur, and other skins.
Do your research!
There’s already great cruelty-free resources out there to save you time and effort. Check out directories like PETA’s cruelty-free Company and Product Database and start supporting companies who take animal rights seriously.