Selective Breeding and Genetic Technologies
SPCA opposes the selection of animals for accelerated growth rates and other enhanced production traits where this may result in the inhibition of normal activity, cause metabolic or skeletal defects, chronic lameness and pain, increased mortality or other welfare problems.
SPCA advocates that animal welfare is taken into account when animals are selectively bred for specific traits, and that the selection of genetic traits to maintain or improve welfare is articulated in breeding programmes.
SPCA calls for transparency by private breeding programmes on the relative weighting of welfare vs. production traits in the selection index.
SPCA is concerned that the application of genetic technologies may have unintended consequences for animals.
Genetic technologies such as genome editing can result in faster changes than selective breeding alone.
SPCA is concerned that some genetic technologies could be used to perpetuate environmental conditions and husbandry practices that result in poor animal welfare. For example, the modification of farmed animals for increased growth rate and disease resistance, while positive for animal welfare directly, may lead to the intensification of farming and have an overall negative impact on animal welfare.
SPCA opposes the use of genetic technologies that are likely to cause a net negative welfare impact to the genetically edited animals or animals involved in their production. All proposed genetic technologies involving animals should undergo robust evaluation of impact on animal welfare before implementation.
SPCA supports the use of genetic technologies only where it demonstrably lead to improvements in animal welfare (such as achieving polled cattle through genetic editing).
SPCA advocates for breeding practices that protect the welfare of breeding animals and offspring.
We are concerned with the stage of maturity at which female animals are first bred, and demands placed on mothers for the number of offspring they produce throughout their lifetime. The collection of oocytes (eggs), if performed, should be done in ways which do not harm the welfare of the animal. The sire line should be selected carefully to ensure improved welfare for the dam and offspring.
If artificial insemination is performed, SPCA supports the practice of cervical artificial insemination by trained operators to surgical artificial insemination, as surgical artificial insemination is a more invasive procedure.
Laparoscopic insemination is an invasive surgical procedure. Where it is performed, this must only be by registered veterinarians. Operators using AI techniques have a responsibility to maintain and regularly update their knowledge of advances in the field.
Breeding animals must be able to maintain normal mobility and physical health and express normal behaviour without feed restrictions.
SPCA opposes the use of the Blockey test to prove bulls’ reproductive performance. The collection of semen should be done in ways which do not harm sire welfare. SPCA opposes the practice of electroejaculation.