The Australian Veterinary Association bases its policies and advocacy activities on scientific evidence. At the same time, it is widely accepted that scientific assessments of animal welfare involve a number of considerations that are ethical in nature.
These considerations will change over time as more becomes known, and this is the case in all scientific inquiry. There remain large areas of knowledge about animal welfare that require further scientific research.
To acknowledge the ethical dimension of animal welfare, the AVA has adopted a statement of principles that articulate the ethical basis for our policies and advocacy on animal welfare issues.
Statement of principles
Animals are sentient beings that are conscious, feel pain, and experience emotions.  Animals and people have established relationships for mutual benefit for thousands of years.
Humans have a responsibility or duty of care to protect animals. Where a person does not meet his or her obligations to animals in his or her care, animals may suffer. When this happens, the law must be able to adequately intervene to enforce compliance and prevent suffering.
Animals have intrinsic value and should be treated humanely by the people who benefit from them. Owned animals should be safe from physical and psychological harm. They need access to water and species-appropriate shelter and food and should be able to fulfill their important behavioural and social needs. They must receive prompt veterinary care when required, and have as painless and stress-free a death as possible.
Animals can be used to benefit humans if they are humanely treated, but the benefit to people should be balanced with the cost to the animal. They should not be used in direct combat or for purposes where suffering, injury or distress is likely to be caused.
Humans should strive to provide positive experiences to promote a good life for the animals in their care. We should strive for continuous and incremental improvement in the treatment and welfare of animals.
Humans have a responsibility to care for the natural environment of free-living native animals. People should take steps to preserve endangered species, and protect native animals from disease where possible.
- Animals that are known to be both conscious and sentient include all of the vertebrates, and some classes of invertebrates such as cephalopods and probably some crustacea. Ongoing research may lead to inclusion of additional groups within this definition. Sentience is the capacity to experience emotions: pain, suffering, negative and positive affective states.
- Mellor DJ, Patterson-Kane E, & Stafford KJ. The Sciences of Animal Welfare. UFAW Animal Welfare Series. Chichester UK: Wiley-Blackwell. 2009: 34-52