The death of saleyards….and factual reporting

The Weekend Australian lead with an article “Going Going Gone: death of the saleyard” last Saturday. An article that was loaded with conjecture, unproven assertions and a raft of opinionated quotations that did neither side of the argument any favours.

On what basis (because there was no reference to a report or study) was the RSPCA able to claim that “cattle suffer undue stress when they are repeatedly mustered, yarded, loaded on to trucks into town and then kept for 24 hours in cramped sale yards before auction, after which the whole process is repeated.”

Sadly, the RSPCA (among others) is a wolf in sheep clothing. Appearing to be working with farm and government groups towards a united animal welfare policy, all the while continuing to strive towards animal rights and wrapping the movement up and pitching it to the public as animal welfare. And when the general public reads information that strikes out at farmers with sensational and emotive references, we would all be well advised to consider whether the author is really looking out for animal welfare…or animal rights.


What is the difference between animal rights and animal welfare I hear you ask?

Animal welfare is “a human responsibility towards animals in Australia and encompasses all aspects of animal health and well being, including proper housing, management, population control and habitat management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane killing.”

Animal rights is a philosophical and personal view .

In case anyone is in any doubt about Australia’s animal welfare stance, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is a good place to start to view public policy. There is also the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy Website.

NB: update – RSPCA issued a statement saying “While RSPCA Australia strongly encourages the direct consignment of farm animals because of the inherent stress caused by multiple transport and handling, we recognise that for many producers saleyards will continue to be part of the supply chain.”

When did it become acceptable to pull so called ‘facts’ out of thin air?

As farmers, we love our animals. If you could only see my husband’s face when we find a new born calf learning to stand up; or when an abandoned kid goat turns up at the front gate. On Twitter this week, one Tweet wrapped it up perfectly. “Ironically the reason I farm is because I love animals so much, but they’ll never believe that (@MichaJohansen).”

To highlight another piece of misinformation floating around, Animals Australia (AA) is now trying to compare Australian antibiotic use in beef with the USA’s antibiotic use. AA has pulled a figure (un-sourced) out of thin air – “Here in Australia an estimated 70-80% of all antibiotics are fed to farm animals — mostly for growth promotion and to help animals survive the unhealthy and unnatural conditions of factory farms.”

Spreading fear about harmful dosage levels of antibiotics in cattle

Spreading fear about harmful dosage levels of antibiotics in cattle

There is an excellent fact sheet by the Australian Lot Feeder Association specifically debunking the antibiotic usage myth in Australia, but there is also excellent information in relation to what is deemed acceptable at the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority .

So, let’s stick to the facts, rather than conjecture, when mounting a rebuttal against each other. Let us all assume that it is unacceptable to pull so called facts out of thin air; to use blogs (such as this one) as anecdotal evidence; or presume that your conversation with a handful of co workers over lunch can in some way be deemed as a good example of what the community as a whole thinks. And while we are at it, stop forwarding emails and sharing information without checking the source or content first – what happened to free thinking?!

By all means, hit each other with peer reviewed papers from well positioned magazines, government and independently appropriated research – but do not trivialize the issue with personal vendettas and ideological fervor.

Herd mentality.

Herd mentality.



Filed under The Politics

4 responses to “The death of saleyards….and factual reporting

  1. Bridget Reye

    A few questions for you – and a few facts:
    – Are you saying that the stress level of an animal that is transported straight to slaughter is not significantly lower than that of an animal that is rounded up, loaded with unfamiliar animals, driven to the saleyard, unloaded, drafted into holding pens (likely to be goaded throughout the whole saleyard process using electric shock prodders) drafted into and out of sale pens with more unfamiliar animals, sold, drafted onto a weigh scale, has gone without food or water or both for some hours, then is loaded again onto another truck with more unfamiliar animals then transported to slaugher?
    – Saleyards are working on their welfare problems, but these problems are considerable and I think most truthful people in the industry admit that. For e.g., Firstly, unfit animals being transported to saleyards, passed for sale and then loaded onto another transport to slaughter. Secondly, the rough handling of some saleyard animals by (often stressed) transporters and handlers who lack low stress animal handling skills and often don’t have to possess any recognised humane animal handling accreditation or to know their legal animal welfare obligations. This often leads to overuse of elec shock prodders, kicking, dragging of animals etc.. Thirdly, the rough treatment of low commercial value animals, especially “culled” cows and sheep and bobby calves who may be treated like they don’t deserve humane handling or proper shelter because they are worth fewer dollars. Also, the problem of overdensity of animals in saleyard pens and transports. Of course another obvious issue is that state animal welfare regulators spend little time at saleyards, so it is fair to say that the industry is to some extent self-regulated (some saleyards claim not to have seen a regulator, or received any animal welfare educational material or extension work for long periods of time) And finally, animals in saleyards that need to be promptly and humanely euthanised according to regulation are still at times left till the end of the day because staff and others are too busy with the commercially viable animals to do the right thing by unfit/dying animals.
    With respect, overall, despite the welfare improvements that are being made at saleyards, many very serious animal welfare issues remain !

    • Thank you for your reply – although, as per my blog – none of your assertions have been backed up by any credible facts, and can therefore only be merited as your opinion.

      Have you been to a sale yard and witnessed a sale?

      In relation to stress, I was not refuting that cattle are more, or less, stressed. What I was trying to point out was there was no indication from the RSPCA how they had arrived at their ‘assertion’, and that this lack of factual data is evident in most accusations that are fuelled by an animal rights agenda.

      From our own perspective, as a grazier who sells through the sale yards (as well as direct to slaughter), with a regular agent, in three separate sales across the state, we have rarely witnessed rough handling of livestock, excessive use of electric prodders or a prejudice of treatment to ‘lower commercial value animals’. In cases where we have, the appropriate measures were taken in accordance with the industry’s protocols.

      Very stressed cattle produce very tough meat, so it is definitely in the interests of all involved to keep livestock as unstressed as possible. Angry, upset cattle also do not sell well, therefore it is in no one’s interest to ‘stir up’ livestock. I understand there is always an exception to the rule – I would hope that these people have a short career in animal handling.

      Essentially, and I think that you would agree with me, Australia needs to increase research in these areas so that there can be some hard data which we can all examine and discuss to ensure best practice.

      • Bridget Reye

        Thanks for your opinions – yes, I have been to a great many saleyards and witnessed a great many sales.. You say your agent acts on your behalf, so do you yourself regularly observe the process at saleyards from start to finish?

      • It depends which sale. Up where we are, my husband trucks our livestock himself from the paddock to the yards and stays for the duration of the sale. It is not always possible to do so, but we go if we can.

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