Position Statements

These Position Statements are formulated in the context of the campaigns that Sentient is involved with. They have been composed in collaboration with experts and thoroughly researched to provide a comprehensive review and critique of current animal welfare issues.

The use of animals in education

Sentient promotes the humane use of animals in education and advocates for funding to research and further develop humane alternatives to many traditional practices. 

 

Not all educational animal use is harmful to the animals concerned. Examples may include non-invasive observational or behavioural studies of wild or free-living animals, controlled handling of domesticated species, and beneficial clinical experiences involving real animal patients.

Dolphins in Captivity

Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, opposes the keeping of dolphins in captivity for entertainment and interactive purposes. Despite efforts by some dolphinariums, the physical, psychological and social needs of dolphins retained in artificial environments such as tanks and pools cannot be met. 

Sentient apposes 'Jump' horse racing as the sport carries inherent animal welfare risks resulting in injuries so catastrophic that they can lead to euthanasia. The sport involves racing horses at high speeds over obstacles (either hurdle or steeple) and over distances of up to three kilometres. Horses used in these events are not bred specifically for the demands required of them, generally having been diverted from flat racing, and therefore are highly prone to injury. 

Population Control Options for Stray and Feral Cats

The aim of any cat population control program should be to prioritise the welfare of cats; reduce the impact of cats on native wildlife; and minimise cats’ disturbance to human populations; minimise the risk to non-target species, and be effective in the long-term. There is as yet no scientific consensus on the most humane and effective form of population control for stray and feral cats in urban and rural environments. Long-term success however does rely on strong public education in order to minimise the numbers of new animals entering un-owned cat colonies.

Wild Horse Population Management

Updated version to follow shortly...

Foie Gras Production

Sentient opposes the production, importation, sale and consumption of foie gras due to the inherent cruelty entailed in creating this ‘delicacy’.  Although producing foie gras is illegal in Australia, there is no restriction on importing from France, its main producer.  It is also produced in Hungary, Bulgaria, Belgium, Spain, the United States, Canada, and more recently in China, where the market is rapidly expanding.

Sentient is fundamentally opposed to live animal exports due to the unacceptable suffering of large numbers of animals involved. This trade is inherently fraught with serious animal welfare risks at all stages of the process. Exported animals are subjected to high levels of stress on their journeys due to heat, humidity, overcrowding, handling, fatigue and unfamiliar pelleted, high GI food.

Greyhound Industry

Sentient opposes the greyhound racing industry on both ethical and welfare grounds. This industry exists to support gaming; it is a non-essential use of animals for entertainment that exploits the natural behaviour of dogs, whose worth is based entirely on their speed, and hence their ability to generate profit. An inevitable outcome is the accepted industry view of dogs as disposable, rather than as sentient beings with inherent worth and deserving of lifelong guardianship. From this arise the multiple and widespread welfare problems endemic to greyhound racing. These are exacerbated by the infiltration of corrupt and criminal activities that has historically resisted all attempted reforms[1].

 

We advocate for an end to this cruel industry. In the meantime Sentient s

Many routine animal husbandry procedures performed in the dairy and beef industries, such as branding, disbudding, dehorning, and castration, are highly painful, invasive, and raise welfare concerns for consumers. Cattle undergoing these procedures exhibit physiological, neuroendocrine, and behavioral responses indicative of pain and distress.

Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, is fundamentally opposed to the practice of surgical mulesing to prevent fly strike in sheep. Fly strike undoubtedly poses a significant threat to the welfare of sheep by predisposing them to severe pain, disease and mortality. As veterinarians we must commit to developing solutions that decrease these risks without producing further suffering. It is our view that mulesing is an unjustifiably inhumane solution to this serious welfare issue in Australian sheep farming. While mulesing remains an accepted practice by industry, the incentive to pursue alternatives to their greatest advantage is minimised. 

Sentient promotes ethical reflection by all researchers regarding the use of animals in their work. Sentient subscribes to the ‘Three R’ principles of humane research, which are replacement of animals with alternatives where possible, reduction in the number of animals used in research and refinement of techniques to minimise pain and distress. Furthermore, we believe these should be adopted hierarchically, with replacement as the first goal. The onus must be on researchers to provide proof, via an extensive and referenced literature search, that animals cannot be replaced as research ‘subjects’ due to the lack of viable alternatives. 

Recreational Hunting

Sentient, The Veterinary Institute of Animal Ethics, opposes recreational hunting.

Hunting results in immense suffering through injury and prolonged death of target and non-target species as well as disturbance to their habitats. 

 

The majority of hunters are amateurs whose shooting competency, and skills in identifying ‘legal’ species, cannot be guaranteed. 

Sentient encourages a move away from conventional, intensive egg production systems in favour of well-run alternative housing for layer hens. We promote free-range farming with low stocking densities and appropriate environmental protection as the ideal. We acknowledge that barn systems also present a significant improvement on cages, provided they are well managed, as they allow birds to engage in most natural behaviours, however these are still far from ideal as they do not provide access to sunlight or fresh air.

Sentient opposes the farming and production of broiler (meat) chickens under intensive conditions and promotes fundamental changes to such management conditions as well as to the current genetic selection for excessively fast growth rates. 

 

Significant welfare issues for broilers arise from the standard practice of selective breeding for faster growth rate and high meat yield, which currently results in birds growing to slaughter weight within 35 days. This rapid body growth rate produces not only the large breast muscles currently desired by consumers, but a range of physical and metabolic syndromes leading to limb disorders, lameness, cardiac failure, ascites, respiratory problems and sudden death syndrome. 

Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, opposes the use of animals in rodeo events.

 

The use of animals in rodeos poses serious welfare threats to the animals concerned and also compromises human safety. Rodeo events are poorly monitored and regulated and are typically held in remote locations, which can make enforcement of standards especially difficult. Severe physical injuries to animals, such as broken bones or internal damage, are an inherent risk. These injuries may be fatal or may require destruction of the animal.

Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, is opposed to many of the established practices in the horse racing industry due to their significant animal welfare risks. These practices are unlikely to change due to the scale of the industry and the high financial stakes involved.  

 

The racing industry is responsible for an enormous ‘wastage’ of horses. It is estimated that only 30 per cent of Thoroughbred foals born in Australia will race, and significant numbers of horses have no career after racing due to health problems or behavioural issues. 

The use of wild animals in such contexts is fraught with inherent welfare risks. Artificial and prolonged confinement, unnatural and inappropriate diets, strict training regimes, regular transport, and contrived social interactions leads to permanent physical and psychological injury. This can be exampled in common learned behaviours such as wind sucking, swaying and pacing.

 

In an ethically and technologically advanced society we must expect that such animals be given the freedom to express natural behaviour, and have their social and physical needs met in more natural environments than are afforded in circuses.

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