Animal Welfare

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What is Animal Welfare?

Technically, animal welfare reflects the state of well-being of the animal, in coping with the environment in which it exists. In livestock farming systems, animal welfare primarily reflects the standard of animal husbandry practiced – the provision of adequate nutrition and a suitable environment (including farm facilities) to enable the animal to live healthily, express innate behaviours and not suffer from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Importantly, good animal welfare is associated with positive productivity outcomes.

Animal Welfare in Context

In recent decades, there has been a rapid evolution of what constitutes good animal welfare practice, reflecting rising societal awareness of the importance of animal welfare. Originating in the UK from the 1960’s, the so called ‘5 Freedoms’ started out as a list of required provisions for farmed animal wellbeing. These now underpin modern welfare standards and guidelines such as Article 7 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes, and New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act4. Over the last 5 decades, individual country and multilateral frameworks for codifying acceptable welfare practices have been developed, which increasingly permeate trade policy arena. As an example of this evolution, the OIE in 2005 extended its remit to include animal welfare as a component of animal health, and in 2013, OIE is well progressed toward development with ISO of international certification standards for the welfare of food producing animals. 

Animal Welfare in the Wool Industry

Animal welfare is at the heart of every wool grower’s farm. Around the world, wool farmers apply the best available animal husbandry practices to ensure the health of their flocks. Wool growers are dedicated to the job of looking after their animals and keeping them healthy, to ensure the wool maintains the right qualities for the textile industry. The routine care of sheep will include

  • Shearing
  • Foot pairing and feet care
  • Pest control
  • Crutching
  • Vaccinations
  • Nutrition (pasture management and supplements)
  • Birthing assistance

A proactive approach of wool growers caring for their animals provides uncompromising welfare standards for sheep across the world. 

Industry Investment in Sheep Welfare Research

The wool industry is committed to the highest standards of sheep care and well-being and supports scientific research in this ara. It is one of the most important aspects of ethical wool production, so much so that the Australian wool industry alone, responsible for 23.5% of the world’s wool, has spent AU$ 28 million since 2005 on wool sheep welfare including breech flystrike prevention and pain relief. 

Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare

The global wool industry is committed to the highest standards of sheep care and well-being. To support the wool growers everywhere who put best practice into practice, IWTO in 2012 developed its Guidelines to Wool Sheep Welfare. 

Download a copy of the IWTO Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare to learn more about the Five Freedoms and to better understand the applicable standards for wool sheep production globally. The Guidelines also contain information and links to the sheep welfare codes of different countries.