‘Somewhere’ frequently asked questions.

Our campaign to make farmed animals' dreams come true.

‘Somewhere’ is our groundbreaking public awareness campaign that’s inspiring compassionate people to make the dreams of farmed animals come true. Watch the TV ad below and join the evolution…

About this campaign

For 40 years, Animals Australia (and other animal protection groups) have sought to bring about change for animals in food systems via government reviews. Despite decades of lobbying, public opinion and increasingly over that time, animal welfare science, cruel confinement practices that began in the 50’s and 60’s remain legal in Australia. Basic needs, such as quality of life and pain relief for invasive procedures are still not required by law for farmed animals (across all industries).

With governments refusing to implement needed obvious reforms, the only pathway to reduce animal suffering in Australia is to reduce the number of animals in these systems. This is what this campaign is actively seeking to achieve.

The somewhere campaign seeks to reconnect the hearts of current generations with animals classified as food, to enable conscious and compassionate, rather than inherited dietary choices, to be made.

It is a natural human instinct to care about and bond with animals. But by necessity, over countless generations, these instincts were repressed and contained in order to raise animals to be killed and eaten. Many who consume animal products could not undertake the tasks that farmers or slaughter workers must embrace to bring these products to their tables.

The unwillingness of governments to regulate reform has left animals, farmers and workers in production-driven systems built on animal suffering, which inevitably impact the well-being of all.

At a time when 72 billion animals globally are being raised and killed in systems that deny them human kindness and compassion, we believe it is time for us to question whether these systems serve us; the humans employed in them; our planet; and importantly, whether they reflect the relationship we want to have with our fellow beings.

Human moral progress has been indelibly connected to our willingness to question and to embrace new potentials. Food will always be needed. Farmers will always be needed. This can be the decade of transformation, of conscious collaboration and cooperation across all related sectors — from traditional food systems that embody harm, to sustainable systems that enable hearts; creating a greater good for all, including the planet that is our home.

Factory farming practices have been ‘legalised’ in Australia under industry-developed ‘Codes of Practice’. These codes enable animals raised to be eaten to be excluded from the same legal protections afforded to our pets, despite the fact that all animals share the capacity to suffer. Learn more about these ‘codes of cruelty’ here

Governments have for decades, and still now, prioritised the economic interests of industry. Reviews of farmed animal standards occur rarely, take years, and occur under the authority of Agriculture Ministers whose primary constituents lobby for nothing to change.

Current demand for pig, chicken and egg products can only be met by factory farming. Put simply, factory farming exists because too many animal products are being eaten.

Factory farming is a term used to describe the intensive farming of animals in a system that is designed to maximise output, while minimising costs. It involves raising large numbers of animals of the same species (for example, ‘broiler’ chickens, battery hens and pigs) in confined and intensive environments (sheds, pens, crates/stalls, cages or pools/sea pens for salmon and trout factory farms), with very limited space per animal in order to maximise production.

The aim of factory farms is to produce the maximum number of animals at the lowest possible cost (facilities and workers) and maintenance to farmers.

This type of farming, while denying animals quality of life, has required farmers to modify the bodies of the animals so that they can ‘fit’ into these production systems. For example, the tips of the beaks of egg-laying hens are often seared off with hot blades or lasers and turkeys have toes cut off to reduce the excessive feather pecking and cannibalism that can occur amongst over-crowded birds. Similarly, piglets may have their teeth clipped and tails cut off, legally without pain relief, to reduce injuries caused to each other as a result of close, crowded confinement in their pens.

Find out more about the lives of animals in factory farms here.

‘Lockdown for life’ means that the first opportunity these factory-farmed animals will get to view the outside world — the world in which they were meant to live — will be on the last day of life as they are trucked to slaughter. Factory farming primarily occurs in indoor, industrialised, unnatural environments. Animals endure intensive confinement during their lives (via cages or due to stocking densities) and are denied the ability to perform the natural behaviours that are needed to ensure quality of life.

Because our vision is a kinder world for all. And we believe this is dependent on transforming our food system globally.

Human choice underpins the health of all life on Earth. For most, eating animals is an inherited habit rather than a conscious choice. Luminaries such as Sir David Attenborough and Dame Jane Goodall, along with leading international environmental and health agencies, are all speaking with one voice regarding the need for humanity to embrace new food choices. Plant-based eating is seen as a responsible, necessary choice.

Human evolution has been based on the willingness to ‘press pause’ to reflect, re-evaluate and reimagine what is possible. Our natural instinct in the face of animal suffering is to alleviate it, not facilitate it, but this cannot happen within food production systems built on the tradition of raising and killing animals for food.

Animals Australia holds the vision of a kinder world where farmers, communities, consumers and families collaborate to consciously create food systems that are in the highest interests of our planet, her people, and the living beings who share it with us.

You can find helpful tips and information on enjoying more plant-rich foods in our plant-based eating FAQs

Sow stalls and farrowing crates are cages that severely confine mother pigs – sows – while they are pregnant and nursing their piglets.  Pregnant pigs can legally be housed individually in ‘sow stalls’ or ‘gestation crates’ barely bigger than their bodies (60cm wide by 2.2m long) for up to 6 weeks of her 16-week pregnancy. Sows are placed in similar restriction in ‘farrowing crates’ (50cm wide by 2m long) where they give birth and will remain for up to  6 weeks until her piglets are weaned.

As with all factory farming practices, this severe confinement is about creating the highest volume of ‘products’ within a facility through the presence of mass numbers of animals.

The pig industry, aware of likely public concern for pigs confined in farrowing crates, is now strategically calling them ‘pig protection pens’ to justify their use, citing that they address piglet crushing. However, research shows that this issue (generated through maximising piglet production) can be addressed through well designed facilities and better husbandry.  Regardless, the suffering inflicted through the use of such severe confinement of the sow cannot be justified.

Following public awareness and concern of the use of severe confinement inflicted on a sow during her pregnancy the Australian pig industry committed to not use sow stalls after the first 5 days following mating. This means a sow can still be placed in a stall for 5 days after mating and then returned to a stall (called a farrowing crate) around 7 days before giving birth. This commitment by the industry is not mandatory or legally binding on any farmers and if sow stalls remain within the infrastructure of a facility – it’s also impossible to ensure compliance with commitments.

Major retailers made ‘sow-stall free’ commitments and even market themselves as being ‘sow-stall free’. However, as this labelling guide clearly shows, these claims aren’t entirely accurate, with pigs still being confined in stalls for a period of time – before being moved to an even smaller stall called a ‘farrowing crate’.

To learn more about what the different terms and labels mean for pigs, see our handy labelling guide.

In their first few days of life, piglets may be subjected to a number of painful, invasive procedures such as teeth cutting, tail docking and some males will be castrated. There is no legal requirement to provide these animals with pain relief.

Piglets will be separated from their mother at 3-4 weeks of age (older in free range or organic production systems) and ‘grown out’ in sheds before being sent to slaughter at around 5 months old (if sold as ‘fresh pork’, older for ‘bacon’).

Whether coming from a factory farm or free range environment, most pigs sent to slaughter in Australia will spend their final moments in distress, gasping for air inside a gas chamber – the pig industry’s primary method of killing pigs.

Every meal has the potential to make a positive difference – to animals, to our own health and to the world around us. Food supply chains are created and new opportunities for farmers are driven by consumer demand.

Every time you enjoy a plant-rich meal instead of an animal-based one you are preventing suffering and halving the greenhouse gas emissions of your food. One person eating plant-based for one week saves as much water as the greenhouse gas emissions of your food. One person eating plant-based for one week saves as much water as not showering for four months! Producing just one glass of dairy milk every day for a year requires a parcel of land the size of two tennis courts – 10 times more land than is needed to produce a glass of oat milk, and vastly more than soy or other plant-based milks.

By eating plant-based for one year you’ll spare 26 chickens from seeing the inside of a factory farm or slaughterhouse. You’ll also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers.

Eating plant-based can also make a big difference to the family budget with one recent study finding that embracing a diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant proteins could save the average household $1,800 a year.

Track your impact

You can now see the difference your meat-free meals are having, including forest saved, greenhouse gases avoided and animals lives spared, using this beautifully designed app. Take the Darwin Challenge and whether you’re having 1, 3, 5 or 7 meat-free days per week, you’ll see the powerful impacts your choices are having. You can even invite friends and combine your efforts to create a greener, kinder world.

Factory farming exists to meet consumer demand for animal products. So, every time you refuse to buy these products you are helping reduce the demand that has led to animals being confined in these systems. You’re also sending a signal to retailers and producers of these products that there is no longer a market for them which in turn influences the business decisions they make. It will only be when governments recognise that current legal practices and how animals are treated in factory farming systems and beyond, are resulting in a reduction in demand for animal products that they will regulate improvements to protect and transition industries.

Australians eat three times the global average of meat – around 96kg of animal flesh per person annually. High meat consumption has been linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer  – diseases that are among the leading causes of death in Australia.

Leading health and environmental experts all agree that to combat climate change, wildlife extinction (due in large part to land clearing for animal agriculture), reduce the risk of future pandemics and chronic disease, we need to move towards a less resource intensive diet of low or no meat.

And every meal makes a difference. Every time you swap an animal-based meal for a plant-based one, you’re reducing your eco-footprint, reducing your risk of chronic disease and reducing the demand that has led to animals being farmed so intensively.

You can find helpful tips and information on enjoying more plant-rich foods in our plant-based eating FAQs.

A significant Oxford University study concluded that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest thing we can do to reduce our impact on the earth. The research found that “without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.”

Embracing plant-based living is not only kinder to animals and the planet but it’s better for our health and, it seems, our hip pocket!

You can find more information on the benefits of eating plant based, as well as tips on how to start by downloading your FREE Veg Starter Kit now.

Sydney-based creative agency, Vandal, developed the beautiful animation that helped make real animals living in factory farms sing for a kinder world. They brilliantly created the CGI piglet who grew wings and flew to freedom. A host of talented Australian singers lent their voices to the animals.

Compassion, care and kindness towards the vulnerable are recognised as inherent human instincts. Raising animals to be slaughtered, therefore creates inevitable complexities of heart and conscience.

Production systems such as factory farming, which was created to meet consumer demand require these instincts to be completely subdued. Emotions are ‘shut down’ via necessity. It is not in one’s own interest to bond with, or care deeply about, a being who will have a life of deprivation and who will be slaughtered.

This emotional disconnect is inevitable and understandable. But over an extended period of time it has led to systems built on suffering and associated laws that deny millions of animals moral consideration and legal protection.

As Animals Australia’s awareness of this complex situation has evolved, so has our compassion for all involved and our understanding that there is no villain here. The production of animal products has both human and animal consequences.

Food production will always need farmers, and Australian farmers are renowned for the adaptivity, always assessing where the best commercial opportunities lie to provide an income for their families and provide sustenance to their community.

Animals Australia understands that the transformation of our food system will need collaboration, cooperation, and consumers to actively drive new commercial opportunities for farmers – hence encouraging plant-based purchases and consumption.

The emergence of industrialised animal agriculture in the 50s and 60s is an example of the power of consumer choice and commercial demand driving agricultural decisions. Consumer choice can similarly create new agricultural opportunities based on an increase demand for plant-based products.

Animals Australia would also fully support government transitional support packages.

Hens used for ‘cage egg’ production will be put into cages, with up to four other birds, at around 16 weeks of age and this remains their existence for around 14 months.

Not only are hens denied quality of life and any level of comfort and appropriate environment, they are denied a key natural instinct which is to lay their eggs in privacy.

Hens from all production systems (cage, barn or free range) will be sent to slaughter when they no longer produce the required quantity of eggs, usually at about 18 months old, long before their natural lifespan of up to 12 years. These birds will either be killed on farm (usually through Co2 gassing) and their bodies composted, or they will be trucked to slaughter and used (for example) for pet food, animal feed additives or human grade stock cubes and food flavourings.

You can see what happens to hens from all types of farming systems with our handy egg labeling guide.

For chickens raised for meat, their bodies are their cage. They are born into a painful genetic prison, the result of years of narrowly focused selective breeding to make them as big and  ‘meaty’ as possible, as quickly as possible. This unnatural growth rate puts enormous pressure on their young hearts and skeletons.

So much so that, industry anticipates that 4% — or 26 million chickens – die every year, not surviving long enough to reach slaughter weight. Killed at just 5 to 8 weeks old, these are baby birds in adult bodies who lead short, painful lives. Read more about the reality of farming chickens here.

Farming laws and practices

Animals raised and killed for food are excluded from key protections within these laws. This means they can be severely confined and denied any quality of life – for their entire lives. They can:

  • endure invasive surgical procedures without any pain relief
  • be subjected to slaughter processes that cause great pain and suffering.
  • be forced to live in intense confinement for some or most of their lives
  • forced to breed and give birth in unnatural ways, and much more than they normally would.

Each State in Australia has its own animal welfare legislation. For example, in NSW it’s called the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, and in South Australia it’s called the Animal Welfare Act 1985.

Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory each also have their own version of an ‘Animal Welfare Act’.

Each Act prohibits cruelty to animals. However, in each of these Acts there are ‘carve out’ clauses that exclude certain animals from the anti-cruelty protections if they are defined as ‘stock’ or farm animals, animals used in racing, entertainment, or animals used in research.

Simply based on how industries and people want to use them, these now ‘excluded’ animals are pulled out from the protection of the Acts and placed under industry Codes of Practice, Standards & Guidelines or Regulation documents. These Codes, ‘Standards’ and Regulations, operate to exclude hundreds of millions of animals from anti-cruelty protections, most of them in factory farms, despite the fact that all animals share the capacity to suffer, regardless of how humans wish to use them.

Read more about these ‘Codes of Cruelty’ here.

Yes. But review processes rarely occur, are drawn out over many years, are highly politicised and consistently prioritise industry interests over animal welfare and community views.

Decades of lobbying by Animals Australia, the RSPCA and other groups, have not been able to achieve basic protections for farmed animals despite the obvious duty of care that has been ignored.

Australia’s system of reviews of animal welfare standards, codes of practice and state laws and regulations has been widely criticised through independent reports, including by the Productivity Commission, as being slow, cumbersome, inherently biased towards industry interests, and lacking scientific integrity.

Animal welfare is a State and Territory Government responsibility (under the Constitution). The difficulty in reaching agreement across all jurisdictions – and the fact that in most cases Agriculture Ministers, whose role is to promote and ensure profitability of agriculture, are the decision makers,  has led to conditions for farmed animals being very similar today to what they were when the first animal welfare Codes of Practice were drafted in the 1980s. These codes largely documented (and then entrenched in law) what was industry standard practice at the time: extreme confinement, painful husbandry, and crowded, long distance transportation.

Despite decades of official reviews, the growth of scientific knowledge and development of more humane practices (such as the availability of cheap pain relief), the politicised review process has failed to deliver any significant reform to laws intended to protect all animals.

The legislation from the prolonged Poultry Code review (which took eight years of consultation between government, industry, and animal protection groups) won’t take effect in most states until 2036, demonstrating how flawed, and biased, these processes are.

That all of these cruel practices remain legal – indicates ‘no’.

National polling has consistently shown that the vast majority of Australians are opposed to battery cages. Yet 11 million egg-laying hens remain confined in cages today.

The inherently cruel live export industry continues despite overwhelming public opposition to the trade.

A 2018 report by FutureEye, Commodity or Sentient Being? Australia’s shifting mindset on farmed animal welfare, found high levels of community concern around withholding food and water from animals for long periods during transportation as well as performing painful procedures on animals without pain relief, yet such practices are widespread, routine and legal.

Reviews of animal welfare standards are approved  by Ministers of Agriculture whose primary stakeholders are the  industries that profit from industrial scale and entrenched unacceptable practices, and that do not want to change. Despite these reviews technically needing to balance the scientific evidence on the welfare of animals with public opinion and current industry practices, governments have historically prioritised industry interests.

In fact, neither high public concern nor overwhelming scientific evidence over recent decades has brought about the obvious changes that animals need.

That’s why Animals Australia has launched this campaign – we cannot leave the wellbeing of animals in the hands of governments and animal industries. Fortunately, consumer choices can spark needed change.

Audits and inspections are not mandatory. Audits occur once a year on most but not all intensive farms.  Facilities get fore-warning, and auditors are chosen and paid for by the industry. The thing about audits is that they’re designed to pick up wrong-doing against an industry standard… but what if the whole system is wrong?

You see, farms are usually audited against the minimum standards outlined in Codes of Practice which allow animals to endure severe, prolonged confinement and be subjected to painful surgical mutilations without any pain relief. All of the conditions revealed through this campaign are industry-wide, routine and legal and would be deemed acceptable under any audit.

Despite industry bodies using third party auditors to carry out the audits, the audit results and any non-compliances are dealt with by personnel from within the industry body’s program. Also, participation in these auditing programs is voluntary (not required by law).

No animal wants to die, therefore various methods are used to capture, restrain and then render animals unconscious – and all of them cause great suffering.

Pigs are rendered unconscious via gassing or electrical shock, and chickens are either gassed or shackled upside down by their legs on a conveyer belt before being dragged through an electrified water bath.

Animals Australia also understands that there is implications for workers. Any employment that requires you to slaughter animals for a living and quell your compassion on a daily basis does not occur without personal impact. In fact, more and more research is being conducted on the impacts of slaughtering animals on slaughterhouse workers, with many found to show symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As an organisation that represents animals and believes in and advocates for human kindness, we cannot endorse commercial killing systems that have consequences for animals and the humans employed to end their lives.

Sir Paul McCartney once said that ‘if slaughterhouses had glass walls, the world would be vegetarian’. We believe McCartney is correct, that human compassion would drive other choices.

Find out more about routine, legal slaughter practices in Australia here.

Around 680 million land animals are raised and slaughtered for meat in Australia annually. This includes over 7 million cattle and 31 million sheep. The vast majority of the 635 million chickens and 5 million pigs killed each year are factory farmed.

These figures don’t include fish and other sea creatures who are only measured in tonnage. But with around 186,000 tonnes of these species killed for food annually, adding them would easily take the slaughter of individual animals for their meat to over 1 billion each year.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of calves are killed in their first week of life as by-products of the dairy industry – born only to keep their mothers producing milk. And some 12 million unwanted male chicks are killed on their first day of life in Australia every year  because they have no economic value to the egg industry.

Many people are surprised to learn just how young the vast majority of animals raised for food are when they are killed. All farmed animals are sent to the slaughterhouse long before their natural life-span. The age of slaughter can vary depending species, the type of farm and even seasonal conditions. The below guide is the most common scenario:

  • Male chicks (by-products of the egg industry): 1 day old
  • Male dairy calves (by-products of the dairy industry): 5- 10 days old
  • ‘Meat’ chickens: 5-6 weeks of age (a little older for those on organic farms)
  • Pigs: usually around 5 months old (if killed for fresh pork, a little older if killed  for bacon, ham or other ‘smallgoods’)
  • Lambs: in the first year of their life
  • ‘Mutton’ (older sheep): Usually 3-6 years old.
  • ‘Veal’ cattle: in the first year of their life
  • ‘Beef’ cattle: 18 months to 3 years old.
  • Egg laying hens: usually 18 months old when no longer considered productive
  • Mother pigs: around 3 years old – when no longer able to produce required quantities of piglets.

While most sheep and cattle are raised extensively on pasture, there are welfare issues associated with these industries that few consumers would be aware of.

1 in 5 lambs (around 10 million annually) won’t survive their first week of life. They’ll die in paddocks from starvation, birth injuries, complications during birth or exposure to the cold. With industry standards not  requiring full shelter, these young lambs and their mums are often  left unprotected from the elements. Those who do survive may have their tails cut off, be castrated or undergo mulesing – often without any pain relief. To be sold as ‘lamb’ they will be sent to slaughter from between 4 months and 12 months of age. Older sheep used for wool production may later be sold as meat labelled ‘mutton’. Almost all of these sheep will have been subjected to the stress of shearing, yarding, transportation and slaughter.

Cattle also endure excruciatingly painful procedures. In their first year of life they may be dehorned, castrated and branded. Pain relief, under law, is not required.  Up to half of all cattle in Australia will spend some time (two months and up to one year) in a feedlot prior to slaughter, where they will live intensively and be fed grain to ‘fatten’ them up. All cattle will be subjected to the stress of mustering, yarding and transportation – often over very long distances – and ultimately, they will all spend their final hours in a slaughterhouse.  Some will be exported live.

It’s not only reducing suffering that has many people rethinking eating beef and lamb. Clearing vast swathes of land for sheep and cattle grazing (or to grow crops to feed animals raised for food) is destroying precious wildlife habitat , pushing species like koalas to the brink of extinction. In addition, livestock production is considered to be one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis facing our planet. Indeed, a landmark study by Oxford University found that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest thing we can do to reduce our impact on the earth.

You can find helpful tips and information on enjoying more plant-rich foods in our plant-based eating FAQs.

Yes, the vast majority of turkeys raised for meat (often for Christmas celebrations) suffer during their short three to four month life. Like chickens raised for meat, turkeys have been selectively bred to grow fast and large, which results in pain and discomfort as their immature bodies struggle to cope. This unnatural growth rate for turkeys extends across all systems – free-range, RSPCA Approved and factory farmed. It also causes further welfare implications at the slaughterhouse, where turkeys can be shackled and suspended by their feet upside down for 3 or more minutes before being killed. Aside from the bird’s distress, this puts intense strain on their hips and legs, which can fracture or even break.

Eating turkey and pork, especially at Christmas, is a tradition we inherited without ever being advised of the associated welfare consequences for the animals. Major supermarkets are now stocking alternative plant-based Christmas roasts in response to growing awareness. We can be the generation that thinks differently, and chooses differently, and inspires a new festive tradition that also celebrates kindness to all beings.

Just like humans, dairy cows are mammals who only produce milk when they have a baby to feed. To meet consumer demand for milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products, cows are kept in an almost continuous cycle of pregnancy and birth.

Considered economically insignificant, male calves, and the females who are excess to the dairy industry’s needs, are separated from their mothers on their first day of life. From as young as 5 days old, they can be loaded onto trucks and sent to saleyards or slaughterhouses. This separation causes cow and calf enormous stress and grief.

Hundreds of thousands of dairy calves are slaughtered every year – born only to keep their mothers producing milk for humans. But this isn’t the only problem facing cows and calves in the dairy industry: find out more here.

Animals used to produce meat and eggs are deliberately bred for this purpose and most are slaughtered at a young age.  Any transformation of our food system will not happen overnight and numbers of animals bred will always be adjusted to meet any declining demand.

This world was never intended to house the 70 billion plus animals raised to be slaughtered each year for food and it is suffering as a result of it.

Numbers of animals raised in ‘livestock’ industries need to be dramatically reduced to reduce suffering and the recognized impact on the health of our planet. Those that remain in food systems can then, at the very least, be provided with quality of life and the individual care that they require and deserve.

Factory farming creates large amounts of seemingly cheap meat, milk and eggs and is highly dependent on large quantities of limited resources such as grain-based feed, water, energy and medication.

A water footprint study (looking into how much water was used to produce certain foods) revealed that vegetables had a footprint of approximately 322 litres per kg and fruits came in at 962 litres per kg. By comparison: chicken came in at 4,325l/kg, pork at 5,988l/kg, sheep/goat meat at 8,763l/kg, and beef at 15,415l/kg.

In addition, roughly one third of the crop land available globally is used to farm crops for animal feed. Much more land is needed to produce meat or dairy products than to produce vegetables, cereals or fruit.

Without factory farming, these finite resources can be redirected to help feed the human population across the globe in a more equitable and sustainable manner.

A reduction in the number of animals farmed for food more broadly would have enormous positive impacts on our environment and our health, including:

  • Pollution (especially from ammonia emissions) would decrease;
  • Climate Change would be decelerated;
  • Deforestation rates would decrease, wild habitats would regenerate, and biodiversity would thrive;
  • The risk of pandemics and antibiotic resistant bacteria evolving in humans would decrease;
  • Greater food security globally (because most land is currently used to grow crops to feed farmed animals. These crops could feed 3 billion people).
  • Our planet and water supplies would be given the opportunity to replenish and renew.

A significant 2018 study from Oxford University published in the eminent journal ‘Science’ concluded that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest thing we can do to reduce our impact on the earth.

The worldwide practice of keeping animals — both ‘farmed’ and wild — in often filthy, confined conditions and then slaughtering them provides the perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

The COVID-19 coronavirus is a zoonotic disease — meaning it arose in animals, jumped the species barrier to humans, and then spread via human-to-human transmission.

Many, and arguably all, zoonotic diseases arise because of the ways humans treat animals — both directly, as is the case in ‘wet markets’ and factory farms, and indirectly, for example through land clearing, which leads to habitat destruction and increased contact between people, wildlife and the diseases they can carry.

It’s no overstatement to say the coronavirus has brought the world to a standstill — but it’s only the latest in a series of zoonotic disasters. From bird and swine flu, to SARS, MERS and anthrax among others — there is a compelling body of evidence to support the fact that the treatment of animals in food systems is a major factor in the spread of new diseases on a global scale.

Watch this episode in Animals Australia’s Deep Dive series on Youtube to find out more about what Covid-19 has to do with animals.

Animal products and labelling

Animals Australia will always acknowledge and applaud improvements in the treatment and slaughter of animals while they remain farmed for food.

However, we believe a fundamental question to be asked in any human interaction with animals that causes them harm is, “is their suffering necessary?’ Is there another, kinder choice that could be made or option that could be taken?

If there is, we will always highlight and advocate for the highest choice to be made that reduces or alleviates animal suffering.

The failure of governments to regulate any level of acceptable standards for farmed animals led to the RSPCA stepping in towards achieving basic protections and some level of improved conditions for animals in production systems.

It is important to understand that the ‘RSPCA Approved’ label does not automatically mean ‘free-range’ (unless specifically labelled) or that animals raised in this system have had what consumers may envisage as a ‘happy’ life, or a ‘humane’ death. ‘RSPCA Approved’ on an animal product indicates a level of improvement from baseline industry ‘codes of practice’ which permit cruel practices.

The RSPCA accreditation scheme includes approvals of indoor housing of grower pigs, intensive chicken and turkey meat facilities and barn-laid egg production, each of which sees animals confined at relatively high stocking densities and are, in effect, factory farming (albeit with lower densities than legally allowed).

In addition, the welfare outcomes addressed by the RSPCA Approved scheme do not extend to core genetic issues relating to the fast and abnormal growth rates in chickens and the mass disposal of unwanted male chicks in the egg industry.

Importantly, all animals in RSPCA Approved production systems endure the same inhumane slaughter practices as animals from other systems, due to the lack of alternative systems.

For more information click here to read our guide to understanding egg labels.

Providing animals with quality of life is a positive step, but animals from all systems including free range and RSPCA Approved, are slaughtered via methods that cause great suffering and that most consumers would never condone. It is for this reason that Animals Australia will always highlight that buying plant-based food is the kindest choice.

In addition, within mass animal production systems there are always ethical issues. A prime example is the egg industry which requires replacement laying hens across all production systems. Each year, millions of day old, unwanted male chicks are placed on conveyer belts, separated off from the females, and shredded alive in a macerating machine or gassed to death.

Find out more about routine, legal slaughter practices in Australia here.

Many people who have been seeking to make more ethical choices would feel duped to learn that the term ‘sow stall free’ doesn’t necessarily mean pigs haven’t spent some time in sow stalls or in similar cruel confinement. In fact, the retailers who use this marketing term still allow the severe confinement of mother pigs in their supply chains. This could be 24 hours or up to 5 days in a sow stall and then 4-5  weeks in an even smaller pen called a ‘farrowing crate’. This is where pigs will give birth and remain until their piglets are weaned. It’s a crate so small that she can only stand up or lie down, and she can’t even turn around. In addition, mother pigs have no choice but to give birth to their young on concrete or metal, in the same area that they are forced to defecate. Their natural instinct, to build a nest to give birth to their young in comfort in, is denied them in factory farms, causing them stress and distress.

See our pork, bacon and ham labeling guide here to read more about what ‘sow stall free’ actually means for pigs.

The vast majority of ‘smallgoods’ — like ham, bacon, salami or other deli meats — come from animals in factory farms. As consumer awareness and concern about the lives and welfare of factory farmed animals increases, some smallgoods manufacturers have introduced non factory farmed alternatives to their product lines. However, without nationally consistent, legally enforceable labelling, it isn’t easy to understand what the various terms and logos on packaging mean for the animals. We’ve attempted to demystify pork, bacon and ham labels in this simple guide.

While all fresh pork sold here is from pigs bred and raised in Australia, a large portion (around 1/3) of the total pig meat products sold in Australia are made from imported, processed meat (usually ham, bacon and other pork ‘smallgoods’). These pig meat products come primarily from the United States (approximately half), Denmark and the Netherlands (and several other countries). These ‘smallgoods’ products (or their ingredients) are said to be imported to meet consumer demand. Their exact origin, and the standard of housing or treatment of the pigs and their parents during their lifetime, is almost impossible to know.

Regardless, in remembering that pigs from all systems are killed via means that incorporate great suffering, Animals Australia will always highlight that the increasing number of plant based alternatives emerging in the plant-based space provide a kinder and viable alternative.

Plant-based living

We’re delighted to. You can find helpful tips and information in our plant-based eating FAQs.