The guide, which has recently been reprinted, was developed to provide guidance to the livestock industry on whether an animal is in a condition fit to be loaded to undertake a journey by road, rail or ship to a particular destination. The national standards were developed by industry, welfare organisations and government and are regulated by state and territory governments.
The guide is designed to help producers, livestock agents, buyers and transporters meet their legal obligations under the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for the Land Transport of Livestock and help to ensure high animal welfare standards are maintained throughout the livestock industries. Topics in the guide include preparation of livestock for transport, feed and water, examples of animals that are unfit to load and what to do if an animal is unfit to load.
It is the responsibility of the person in charge to ensure that animals are prepared correctly, will cope well with the entire journey and are not suffering any illness or injuries. An animal is not fit to load if it:
- Is not strong enough to take the journey
- Cannot walk normally bearing weight on all legs
- Is severely emaciated or visibly dehydrated
- Is suffering from severe stress or injury
- Is in a condition that could cause pain or distress during transport
- Is blind in both eyes
- Is in late pregnancy.
Transporting unfit animals not only reflects poorly on the person in charge of the animals but on the wool and sheepmeat industries. It is a reminder that there is a joint responsibility for animal welfare and it is imperative that all animal welfare obligations are being met. Sheep in transit are highly visible – it only takes a few moments for someone to upload what they see to the rest of the world - if all livestock are Fit to Load, the reputational risk to the Australian industry is reduced.
The Sheepmeat Council of Australia and WoolProducers Australia work with all industry stakeholders to improve animal health and welfare at all stages of the supply chain and support this work through research, development and extension.
A copy of the guide can be downloaded from the MLA website or from your State Farming Organisation.