header image

Animal Welfare RD&E;

The National Primary Industries Animal Welfare Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Strategy was a component of the National Primary Industries RD&E Framework, an initiative of the Primary Industries Ministerial Council (PIMC).

The purpose of the Strategy was to develop national arrangements to deliver strong collaboration amongst existing RD&E provider groups, and effective partnerships between investors and providers.

The Strategy was directed by the Animal Welfare RD&E Committee, comprising livestock industry RDC’s, major RD&E providers and Government.

The Strategy delivered animal welfare research, development and extension programs in the primary industries sector which were:

  • Nationally Significant
  • High Priority
  • Cross-sectoral in application

and which required a high degree of collaboration in research and funding.


Seven strategic RD&E themes were identified:

  • Animal welfare assessment
  • Pain assessment and management
  • Management, housing and husbandry
  • Transport, euthanasia and slaughter
  • Public attitudes, social science and community
  • Education, training and extension
  • Policy and market access


A key component of the Strategy involved the formation of both formal and informal collaborative arrangements amongst RD&E providers and strengthening linkages between major research providers and research funders.

This was assisted by the provision of an annual National Forum where Australian providers and funders of animal welfare RD&E, together with representatives from State Governments and New Zealand research organisations, joined in a facilitated discussion to identify RD&E priorities, to share scientific knowledge and to identify and recommend solutions to capability, resource and other issues relevant to the implementation of the Strategy.


The project “Identify and Integrate Measures of Animal Welfare that Meet the Needs of Animals and Society” was completed in 2013.

There were three prominent concepts of animal welfare in the literature; the welfare of animals is judged on the basis of:

  1. How well the animal is performing from a biological functioning perspective;
  2. Affective states, such as suffering, pain and other feelings or emotions; and
  3. The expression of normal or “natural” behaviours.

The so-called “five freedoms”, that is freedom from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury and disease, to express normal behaviour, and from fear and distress include aspects of all three of the animal welfare concepts described above. While most would accept that the these freedoms are necessary to avoid a lack of suffering, in terms of a consensus on animal welfare assessment, there has been little attempt to define the levels of freedom that are desirable together with the adverse consequences of not providing such freedoms.

This project was led by Drewe Fergusson (CSIRO), with collaborative input from Paul Hemsworth (Animal Welfare Science Centre) and Teresa Collins (Murdoch University). The project:

  1. Reviewed the scientific literature on welfare measures to identify those that are the best candidates to integrate into a uniform index to assess the welfare status of livestock
  2. Examined novel methods for integrating these measures into a welfare index.

The review included recommendations of the most robust and credible welfare measures and assessment systems across or within species and identified knowledge gaps where further research and development was required.

As a result of the review the livestock industries are more informed about contemporary and future welfare assessment measures and methodologies and how these can be integrated into field–based welfare indices. This in turn, will guide strategic direction within each industry regarding the development and implementation of welfare assessment and assurance systems.