Back to Research & Development

Report Detail Page

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines: Livestock at Saleyards and Depots - Consultation Regulation Impact Statement

​This Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) evaluates the proposed Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Livestock at Saleyards and Depots (‘the proposed standards’);1 and should be read in conjunction with that document.  

The purpose of the proposed standards is to specify standards and guidelines to ensure the welfare of livestock at saleyards and depots.  They provide a basis for developing and implementing consistent animal welfare legislation and enforcement across Australia.  The proposed standards and guidelines apply to all livestock saleyard businesses and depots in Australia.  They apply to the main commercial livestock species: cattle, goats, horses, pigs and sheep that are handled through Australian saleyards and depots.  They do not apply to on-farm livestock sales or markets.  

It is intended that the proposed standards document will replace the existing Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Animals at Saleyards (‘the existing code’).  It is also intended that the proposed standards and guidelines will eventually supersede the various state and territory codes of practice. 

In Australia, a saleyard is essentially a place where livestock are bought and sold, usually by auction.  Saleyards have permanent holding and selling facilities (solidly fenced yards and pens) for the gathering and sorting of livestock from a number of sources for exchange of ownership.  They also have ramps for unloading and loading of livestock to trucks for transport to and from the saleyards.  They are primarily located in the main cattle and sheep farming areas of Australia, Depots are facilities or yards where livestock may be rested between journey(s) or holding facilities in a particular region, where livestock are delivered from farms for assembly before a journey.  No buying or selling takes place at depots. 

Saleyards can be either publicly owned and operated by local government councils or privately owned and operated.  Publicly owned saleyards can be located on Crown land managed by councils, on freehold land owned by councils, or on a mixture of both Crown land and freehold land.  Depots, which primarily operate in Queensland, are on both public and private land. 

There are essentially three processes associated with the movement of livestock to, within, and from saleyards and depots.  These are the transport processes to and from the saleyards and the saleyards process within the saleyards or depot.  The proposed standards are concerned only with the saleyards process, although the transport processes are related and in some cases have continuity with the saleyards standards; for example, maximum times off feed and water.

Animal welfare concerns are becoming increasingly important to industry, government, consumers and the general public, both in Australia and internationally. Practices which may have once been thought acceptable are now being reassessed in light of new knowledge and changing attitudes.  

‘Animal welfare’ is a difficult term to define and has several dimensions including the mental and physical aspects of the animal’s well-being, as well as people’s subjective ethical preferences.

Under constitutional arrangements, the primary responsibility for animal welfare within Australia rests with individual states and territories, which exercise legislative control through ‘prevention of cruelty to animals Acts’ and other legislation as outlined in Appendix 1 of this RIS.  The purposes of such legislation are often to encourage the considerate treatment of animals as well as to prevent cruelty.

There are no specific World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) or European Union (EU) standards or guidelines relating to the welfare of livestock at saleyards. England though, as a Member Country of the OIE and the EU, has a highly regulated saleyard environment.  New Zealand also has general animal welfare regulation but the saleyard detail is in a Code of Animal Welfare guideline.  The latter can be used in evidence to establish the guilt of anyone accused of causing suffering under their welfare Act.  Canada and the US, at the Federal level are devoid of specific regulation for animal welfare at saleyards.

The standards development process has been managed by the Victorian DEPI with the assistance of a widely representative Standards Reference Group and a Writing Group.  Extensive consultation has taken place with government agencies, researchers, industry and animal welfare organisations in the development of the proposed standards.  The preparation of an RIS provides for an informed process of consultation regarding the proposed standards, alternative options and the costs and benefits associated with each option.  The publication of this consultation draft RIS is the final step in the consultation process, where the general community and consumers, as well as interested stakeholders have an opportunity to comment on both the proposed standards and the RIS.  Public consultation questions have been interspersed throughout the RIS. 

Whilst there is strong industry support of proposed standards, it is understood that animal welfare groups would like shortened maximum times for livestock to be off feed.  Animals Angels and Animals Australia suggest feeding before 36 hours, as saleyards are usually unaware how long livestock have been off feed prior to arrival. RSPCA advocate a requirement for daily feeding.  On the other hand, advice from the Animal Welfare Science Centre supports a 36hr maximum period.  








Title Size Date published
5.2MB 01/08/2014


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Phase 2 - Preparation of a Regulatory Impact Statement for the proposed Australian Saleyard Welfare Standards
01/05/2014 30/07/2014

This page was last updated on 31/07/2018