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Advice & welfare

Painful Husbandry Practices

Farmed Animals

SPCA advocates for farming practices which avoid the need for painful husbandry procedures by providing sufficient living space and appropriately enriched environments.

Rather than physically altering animals to fit a poor farm environment, our organisation supports farms which provide better management, husbandry and nutrition to ensure that the farm environment provides for the welfare needs of the animals.

In some cases, selective breeding may be appropriate to help avoid the need for painful husbandry procedures.

(See ‘Selective Breeding and Genetic Technologies’ for more information)

While painful husbandry procedures continue, SPCA advocates for pain relief to be provided.

Pain relief must be administered both at the time of the procedure, and incorporate longer-lasting pain relief as required. Pain relief should be given to animals at all ages, not just after an arbitrary age is reached.

Animals should always be handled using low-stress, force-free methods.

(See ‘Handling of Farmed Animals’ for more information)

SPCA opposes the castration of any farmed animal without pain relief.

Castration is a routine surgery performed to prevent unwanted offspring and possible health or behavioural issues. However, it is also a painful and stressful procedure with the risk of complications, pain or distress if not performed appropriately or if sufficient pain relief is not provided.

Castration must only be performed where there is a clearly established and unavoidable need. SPCA supports the research and development of husbandry and management practices which eliminate the need for routine castration.

Where the castration of farmed animals does take place, then the most humane method available, based on current research and recommendations, must be used.

Our organisation advocates that surgical castration should only be performed by a veterinarian or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. In both cases of surgical and non-surgical castration, adequate and appropriate medical care must be provided prior to, during and after the operation and include anaesthesia and analgesia. SPCA opposes the use of standard castration rings without the use of analgesia. Our organisation advocates the use of the application of slow release, pain-relief infused bands.

SPCA supports the development of alternative management strategies or selection of genetic traits to eliminate the need for routine docking or banding of tails of farmed animals.

If tail docking is performed, then it must be performed under the direction of a veterinarian for therapeutic purposes only. The shortening of tails for therapeutic reasons is referred to as “amputation” not “docking”.

Adequate and appropriate medical care must be provided prior to, during, and after the operation and include anaesthesia and analgesia.

Where tail docking continues to be carried out for the purported benefit of the animal, such as in sheep in pigs, SPCA advocates for ongoing research and development regarding alternative methods. Solutions to provide pain relief must be advanced with urgency, and eventually routine tail docking should end.

SPCA supports the farming of naturally polled cattle and goats as this would eliminate the need to disbud or dehorn cattle and goats.

Where there is a need to prevent horn growth in non-polled animals, it is best for the animals for their horns to be prevented from developing, or to be removed, at the youngest possible age.

Disbudding is the destruction, by any method, of the free-floating immature horn tissue (horn “buds” growing within the skin) from which the horns of an animal subsequently develop. Dehorning is the removal of whole horns (including any regrowth after disbudding) from an animal by amputation.Disbudding must be performed before the horn bud attaches to the skull (typically less than month of age for cattle and less than a week of age for goats). After this point, the horn bud will have attached and dehorning will be carried out instead of disbudding, which is associated with greater pain and possible complications.

SPCA advocates that dehorning of cattle, and disbudding and dehorning of goats should only be performed by a veterinarian or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. If dehorning does take place, appropriate medical care must be provided prior to, during and after the operation and include anaesthesia and analgesia.

SPCA opposes nose ringing animals.

In pigs, nose ringing prevents the expression of normal behaviour and should not be used as a means to prevent environmental damage caused by pig rooting. Land should be assessed for suitability for outdoor pig farming, and alternative methods for maintaining ground cover such as providing sufficient enrichment material should be implemented.

SPCA opposes the use of nose rings in cattle, particularly where used for tethering.

SPCA advocates that the freeze branding of animals must only take place when easily visualised permanent identification of an animal is required to protect their welfare and when microchipping is not a valid alternative.

If freeze branding is carried out it should only be performed by a veterinarian or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, and adequate and appropriate medical care must be provided prior to, during and after the operation and include anaesthesia and analgesia.

SPCA opposes all uses of hot branding to identify animals.

SPCA opposes the practice of teeth clipping piglets.

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