Humaneness levels of control methods used to manage pest animals can now be measured, as the result of a landmark national model development by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
NSW DPI researchers, Trudy Sharp and Glen Saunders, from the Orange Agricultural Institute, were commissioned to develop the model which aimed to reduce the suffering of animals, as part of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy.
"Most people accept that management is justified if pest animals cause significant environmental damage and agricultural losses but the community also expects that the controls used are the most humane methods available," Ms Sharp said.
"Animal welfare for pest animals such as rabbits, feral pigs, foxes and wild dogs has to be taken into consideration to ensure that control measures are performed humanely."
The humaneness model examined the negative impacts that control methods had on the animal’s welfare, and for lethal methods it examined how the animal was killed.
The aim of the model was to provide a practical, general model of assessment that could be applied to any pest control method across the country.
"It’s not designed to give an absolute measure of humaneness but it does allow a judgment to be made about the impact of a specific control method on the target animal," Ms Sharp said.
"Control methods can be compared using the model so users can to make an informed decision on the relative humaneness of the control they choose."
A panel of experts with knowledge and experience in animal welfare and invasive animal management would now undertake the assessments for a selection of currently-used control methods.
A model for assessing the relative humaneness of pest animal control methods, published by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, was available on http://www.daff.gov.au, and had been endorsed by RSPCA Australia and the Vertebrate Pests Committee.
Dr Saunders and Ms Sharp had developed and published 43 standard operating procedures (SOP) and seven codes of practice (COP) for the humane control of 10 pest animal species, which were in the process of national adoption.
Written with a common-sense approach for people managing pest animals, the SOPs and COPs were available from the NSW DPI web site, www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/pests-weeds/vertebrate-pests
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