“An ability to demonstrate that livestock production systems are managed sustainably and conducted ethically is part of the emerging social contract between farmers and the community and earns farmers a ‘social license to operate’.”1
‘Animal welfare’ relates to the physical and mental state of an animal in relation to the conditions in which it lives. This means considering whether an animal is being provided with all necessary elements to ensure they are healthy, safe, comfortable, and free from pain, fear, and distress.
Globally, animals are relied upon for food security, income, and transport. As the custodians of approximately half of Australia’s land mass, of which a significant proportion is used for livestock farming, Australian farmers care deeply about each animal in their care. This is evident through the visible length farmers take to ensure their livestock are healthy, appropriately fed, sheltered, and free from disease. Sustainable practices, such as humane care for animals, can improve animal survival rates, reduce production costs, and minimise disease, which can lead to increased profits.2 Bendigo and Adelaide Bank values and prioritises sustainable growth, which means being mindful of animal welfare considerations and actively supporting sustainable farming practices.
With our strong agribusiness footprint, predominantly through our Rural Bank division, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank has a vision to provide exceptional financial services, knowledge and leadership for Australian farmers to grow. We are committed to working closely with our customers to meet their requirements and support the integration of industry best practice standards into their business activities.
We always encourage, and where possible, positively influence sustainable farming practices across the agricultural supply chain. To address this, our standards are integrated into our Animal Welfare and Livestock Farming Policy. This internal facing Policy was developed with the expertise of the Business and Agribusiness Division, namely Rural Bank, but it applies to the entire Group.
To guide our approach to executing on our vision, we are guided by domestic legislation and regulations, and principles and guidance from leading global animal welfare organisations. Our Animal Welfare and Livestock Farming Policy establishes our organisational benchmark and outlines the minimum acceptable standards for animal welfare that we expect of ourselves and our customers.
Global principle-based approach:
Whether animals are being managed through broadacre grazing or in specialised operations, farm owners and managers have a responsibility to ensure that the animals’ basic needs are met. Informed primarily by the Five Freedoms, we expect customers to provide:
- Protection from hunger and thirst;
- Protection from discomfort, i.e. appropriate environment and shelter;
- Protection from pain, injury or disease, and treatment where required;
- Protect the opportunity to express normal behavioural patterns; and
- Protection from fear and distress and humane euthanasia where necessary.
Clear and established standards for our customers and ourselves:
To uphold these principles, we work with our customers to support their farming business. This means recognising there are day-to-day challenges in agriculture. These challenges include managing tough climatic and seasonal conditions such as drought, floods, natural disasters, and the impacts of climate change, as well as other external influencing factors such as market access and price volatility. We face these challenges alongside our customers, to ensure humane treatment of animals. We make it the responsibility of all Relationship Managers to be cognisant of animal welfare and to identify and monitor potential animal welfare issues and livestock farming concerns. Relationship Managers are an integral part of how we do business. When on-farm, Relationship Managers should be aware of conditions customers may be experiencing, which may be indicative of, or potentially lead to, animal welfare issues.
Understanding mental, emotional, and physical pain:
We define pain, injury, and distress as including mental and emotional suffering and/or distress, in addition to physical suffering and/or distress. This means that we require our customers to protect animals from mental, emotional, and physical pain and to provide appropriate treatment if and when required. This is premised on the understanding that animals have sentience, which is the capacity to feel or experience negative and positive physical, mental, and emotional states.
Preference for pain relief:
Our Animal Welfare and Livestock Farming Policy sets out that we prefer that pain relief be administered prior to medical treatment, particularly where treatment is considered to be invasive. We also state our preference for invasive procedures to be administered to younger animals, such as for castration, dehorning, spaying, tail docking, and mulesing.
Customers we will engage with:
We only engage with customers who we regard as having the capacity to care for an animal's welfare or be responsible for them. When onboarding new customers, we observe the farming operation to ensure that we have not seen any indication that the customer does not have the capacity to meet our animal welfare standards. Where Relationship Managers are required to perform a full annual review, they are required to confirm that a customer has the capacity to meet our animal welfare standards and identify whether there are any risks or concerns around animal welfare or livestock farming.
While Rural Bank’s tailored lending products, personal banking, and savings and investments products are critical to helping us improve sustainable farming and agricultural practices, our Policy applies to the entire Group. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is proud to continue supporting Australian farmers and the agricultural industry.
We will always work constructively with customers to ensure that in the face of any issues relating to a breach of the Animal Welfare and Livestock Farming Policy, the welfare of animals is always a priority.
Things you should know
1 CSIRO. (2020, November 24). Animal Behaviour and Welfare. CSIRO Research. https://research.csiro.au/livestock/our-focus/behaviour-and-welfare/
2 World Society for the Protection of Animals (n.d.). Animals: helping us achieve the future we want. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/getWSDoc.php?id=2748