The welfare of an animal includes its physical and mental state and we consider that good animal welfare implies both fitness and a sense of well-being. Any animal kept by man, must at least, be protected from unnecessary suffering.
We believe that an animal's welfare, whether on farm, in transit, at market or at a place of slaughter should be considered in terms of 'five freedoms'. These freedoms define ideal states rather than standards for acceptable welfare. They form a logical and comprehensive framework for analysis of welfare within any system together with the steps and compromises necessary to safeguard and improve welfare within the proper constraints of an effective livestock industry.
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
Animal Welfare Legislation
The legislation that applies to animal welfare in Ireland is as follows:
- The Protection of Animals Acts, 1911 and 1965 are the principal statutes governing cruelty to animals in Ireland. The Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act, 1984 is also an important piece of legislation.
- The Diseases of Animals Act, 1966 and the Sheep Scab Orders, 1905 and 1994 deal with sheep scab, which is and ectoparasite disease of sheep caused by psoroptes ovis. It causes considerable suffering in affected sheep. Death may result if the disease is left untreated.
- The Abattoirs Act, 1988 , and Regulations, cover all aspect of abattoirs, and also includes abattoir design and operation, with reference to animal welfare.
- The Slaughter of Animals Act, 1935 and the European Communities (Protection of Animals at Time of Slaughter) Regulations, 1995 set out the legal requirements on slaughterhouses to prevent excessive suffering of animals being slaughtered.
- The Control of Dogs Act, 1986 promotes responsible dog ownership and control, and is particularly important in minimizing 'sheep kills' as a result of uncontrolled packs of dogs attacking sheep.
- The Milk and Dairies Act, 1935 and the European Communities (Hygienic Production and Placing on the Market of Raw Milk, Heat-Treated Milk and Milk-Based Products) Regulations, 1996 stipulate health standards for milk-producing animals. They also include housing and welfare standards.
As Veterinary Surgeons, Veterinary Inspectors in Cork County Council are professionally competent to assess and promote animal welfare. The relief of animal suffering is the primary responsibility of all Veterinary Surgeons under the Veterinary Surgeons Acts, 1931 to 1960.
Active enforcement by the Veterinary Department of all animal welfare legislation promotes animal welfare in the following ways:
- At abattoirs, welfare is promoted by the enforcement of the Abattoirs Act, 1988, specifically with regard to the licensing standards of abattoirs. There is inspection of animal welfare standards as part of veterinary inspections at ante-mortem, during slaughter and at post-mortem. The treatment of animals during transport and slaughter is strictly controlled. Enforcement of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1935 is exclusively a local authority function. All slaughterers are licensed as to their competency and their use of approved slaughter instruments, equipment and methods.
- Active enforcement of the Control of Dogs Act promotes responsible dog ownership and control. The issue of out of control and wandering packs of dogs is a serious one. The suffering caused to sheep in particular as a result of attacks by dogs is horrific. Without the work of the dog warden service, it would not be possible for many farmers to continue with sheep farming, due to attacks by dogs.
- The input of the Veterinary Department in animal welfare concerns related to intensive animal production systems, such as intensive pig and poultry units, is achieved through enforcement of the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act, 1984. Veterinary Inspectors expect technical advice to be given regarding animal welfare and environmental issues in dealing with planning applications for intensive animal production units. This advice is increasingly sought by the planning authorities.
It is the responsibility of animals' owners to dispose of fallen animals in accordance with current Animal By-product Regulations. This involves the removal of the carcass by a licensed Animal Collection Service and subsequent rendering.
Reports of incidences of increased levels of fallen animals in farms are investigated by Veterinary Inspectors in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, particularly to ascertain if a particular disease or animal welfare problem is behind the increased mortality.
Cases of dumping of animal carcasses are investigated, particularly with regard to tracing the origin of the animal involved and its owner. This is to recoup any costs involved in the disposal of the carcass, and in connection with legal proceedings that may follow such dumping.