Animal Welfare at Shows

swaledaleIt is an amazing experience to visit one of the big agricultural shows during the summer and see all the various livestock breeds being paraded around and competing to be top of their breed. It is a great way to enhance public awareness of particular breeds for the individual societies. If you are exhibiting / competing at a show, you should be aware of the animal welfare regulations as some of the larger shows require the animals to be in attendance for a number of days.

The Animal Welfare Act

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states:

The Animal Welfare Act (2006) specifies that owners and keepers - including persons with temporary responsibility such as market operators - have a duty of care to ensure animals are protected at all times. Animals must have a suitable environment and diet, and be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns. Animals must be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease, and be housed according to their specific needs. This basic duty of care applies in all situations, including while at market and shows.

General animal welfare protection is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However, there are no specific welfare regulations for shows or other animal gatherings.

Show organisers often set conditions of entry to their event, which provides some guidance on the treatment of animals. If you intend to show livestock, you will receive the livestock schedule, which will detail the organiser’s conditions. The Animal Welfare Act requires all responsible persons to provide a duty of care to the animals wherever they are.

See for the full article.

As a livestock owner, you should be aware of the ‘Animal Welfare Act 2006’:

The Role of the Livestock Owner

It is the livestock owners responsibility to provide enough food and water for their animals for the duration of the show. You should also check the conditions of the pens / holding areas for your livestock once you arrive. Is it large enough? Is it secure? Voice any concerns you have immediately.

It is also important that you observe high welfare considerations during your journey to and from the show. Plan your journey carefully so that travelling time is kept to a minimum and make sure you know where you will be unloading your animals before you get to the show. Read the following DEFRA article information on transporting livestock.

“No person shall transport animals or cause animals to be transported in a way that is likely to cause injury or undue suffering to them”.

The Role of the Veterinary Surgeon

Shows will normally have a Veterinary Surgeon in attendance to oversee the welfare of the animals and the prevention of infectious diseases. Exhibiting and competing can be stressful for some animals as they are away from their normal routine and in a very crowded atmosphere. The vet will also be looking out for any competitors that may be compromising the welfare of their animals by trying to enhance certain features to gain a competitive advantage in the show ring.

Further information on the role of the Veterinary Surgeon at shows can be found on the BVA website:

Welfare Guidelines

The ‘Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations’ (ASAO) - - is an invaluable source of information for exhibitors at shows. The ASAO worked closely with the BVA to develop a welfare plan for livestock at shows. The ASAO website lists the various welfare issues that the attending vet will be looking for, as well as a list of requirements for the show organisers.


Dairy cattle

  • Falsely altering the shape of the udder with gas or liquids
  • Overstocking of udders (delaying milking)
  • Sealing teats with glues or licensed teat sealants
  • Administering medicines without Veterinary prescription to manipulate milk let-down              

Beef Cattle

  • Restriction of water intake and resultant dehydration
  • Heat stress and respiratory disease
  • Use of growth promoters


  • Overheating, especially long wool sheep shown in full fleece in hot weather
  • Contravention of Tail Docking regulations
  • Injuries caused during shearing competitions


  • Restriction of water intake and resultant dehydration


  • Heat stress and respiratory disease


  • Refer to the Poultry Club of Great Britain welfare guidelines
  • Confinement for long periods in small cages/enclosures
  • Heat stress
  • Social stress (mainly Cockerels) caused by housing too close to other birds
  • Fear, caused by too close proximity of unknown birds or spectators

Rabbits, Cavies and Small mammals

  • Fear, caused by too close proximity of spectators
  • Adequate provision of food and water
  • Pens/Cages must be of a suitable size for the occupants


  • Refer to the BHS code of practice for the welfare of horses and ponies at events, and Breed and Showing Society rules, their officials should be consulted if present
  • Abuse with sticks and whips usually takes place in parking and warm-up areas

Animals / Birds for Exhibition or demonstration (Animals on Trade Stands)

  • "Enthusiastic Amateurs" wishing to promote their animal/birds are not always aware of the welfare requirements of a Show, or codes of practice of their parent organisation, e.g. Hawk Board guidelines
  • Health and safety issues relating to the temperament of the animals and the accommodation provided should be considered

Organiser Guidelines

  • All animals should have safe unloading and loading facilities to prevent injury or escape. NB It is an AGO requirement that a Show should have a secure perimeter fence
  • Transport - Vehicles should be suitable for the size and number of occupants
  • Ensure a contingency plan to remove unruly or distressed animals is in place
  • Penning/Stalling must be of sound construction and free from any defect likely to cause accident or injury
  • Showing rings should be constructed to comply with HSE guidelines
  • Ventilation must be adequate to avoid over-heating and respiratory disease
  • Tents marquees should have removable sides. Permanent buildings should have ventilation or air conditioning systems
  • A source of drinking water must be available at all times
  • Provide adequate amounts of bedding materials to ensure that animals can “lie dry”
  • Provide suitable shade and protection from the elements
  • Ensure handlers are competent (Show regulations should refer)
  • Animal must be kept under proper control at all times NB HSE requirements for handling bulls. All cattle should be halter led


Information sources:


British Veterinary Association

Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations