“Social license to operate” (SLO) refers to the implicit process by which a community gives an industry approval to conduct its current business activities. It has become an important focus for many natural resource management fields (especially mining), but there is less awareness of its role in animal use industries. This article describes how animal welfare has recently become arguably the most crucial consideration underpinning the SLO for Australian animal use industries. It describes several industries in Australia that have faced animal welfare scrutiny in the past decade (2010–2020) to illustrate how persistent issues can erode SLO, lead to regulatory bans, and decimate previously profitable industries. Industries described include the live export of livestock, greyhound and horse racing, kangaroo harvesting, and dairy and sheep farming. In these cases, there has been intense public discourse but little scholarly progress. This article examines factors that may have contributed to these developments and suggests approaches that may assist these industries in maintaining their SLO. Animal welfare has become a mainstream societal concern in Australia, and effective management of the community’s expectations will be essential for the maintenance of SLO for many animal use industries.
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