Animal welfare

We promote the humane and responsible care of animals through scientific research and education, and develop ethical principles to guide human-animal interactions and biotechnology.

Our expertise

Animal welfare science

The assessment of animal welfare using a range of techniques including behaviour, physiology, health and production. A priority is assessment and alleviation of pain in livestock, companion animals, poultry, fish and pest species. Research includes alleviating the pain caused by dehorning calves and velvet removal from deer, and developing efficient and acceptable methods of pest control.

Animal husbandry, livestock systems, veterinary and wildlife sciences

The assessment of how different husbandry systems affect animal welfare. For example, lamb mortality is a significant problem in sheep production, and we are investigating how management affects lamb survival. We are also researching the effect of different techniques on the welfare of livestock during slaughter and relieving lameness in dairy cattle.

Applied animal behaviour science

Investigations into the behaviour of domesticated, feral and wild animals; for example, problem behaviours of dogs (aggression, barking) and cats; the handling of livestock; perinatal behaviour and lamb survival; management of wild horses; and sheep killing by kea.

Animal alternatives

We promote the development and application of the Three Rs (reduction, refinement, and replacement) in research, teaching and testing and are working on the development of computerised substitutes for animals used in veterinary training.

horse and vet at Massey University equine centre

Animal welfare ethics, bioethics, applied and professional ethics

The assessment of the bioethical acceptability of different management practices.

We examine the ethics of animal use in research, teaching and testing, make ethical appraisals of new biotechnologies and analyse the ethical dimensions of welfare problems and technological developments.



CASE STUDY: Promoting the welfare of unwanted calves

The dairy-beef industry slaughters about 1.5 million young unwanted dairy calves every year. This is a sensitive and important welfare issue for the dairy industry and animal welfare organisations. The transport and slaughter of bobby calves is managed by veterinarians in slaughter plants.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) approached the Centre to assess the suitability of its welfare management standards for the age, nutrition and health of these calves. 

We worked with a major slaughter plant to investigate how calves coped with early weaning, transport and fasting. Most could cope with transport for 12 hours and fasting for 30 hours without distress.

In another study, the majority of 7000 calves that arrived at a slaughter plant in Whanganui coped well with transport and lairage (animal handling facilities), provided these met MAF and industry standards. This work was repeated with similar results in Australia.

Our studies show that industry standards are sufficient to guarantee the welfare of calves destined for slaughter.

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