Live Export: Lesson 3 Science, Yr 10

Ammonia – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In this lesson, students will look at the ways that ammonia gas is produced and used in  agriculture,  pharmaceuticals  and  explosives. They will discover that ammonia is both naturally occurring and man-made and will consider the impact that it has on the natural environment. Drawing on the APE Live Export resources, the lesson investigates the dangers of ammonia  build-up  when it becomes a welfare problem for animals on board live export ships and in factory farms. Students have the opportunity to create a poster or infographic conveying the benefits, dangers and other considerations of ammonia use.

Time Allocation

50-100 minutes.

Voiceless Resources

Other Resources

Inquiry Questions

  • In what ways does the production of ammonia both negatively and positively impact people and/or the environment?
  • In what ways does ammonia impact animals on live export ships and in other confined spaces (such as factory farms)?
  • Can ammonia be used and/or produced responsibly?

Suggested Learning Activities


Using the questions below, conduct a quick quiz with your students to evaluate their existing knowledge.

  • What is the chemical symbol for ammonia?
  • What is needed to create ammonia?
  • What other names does ammonia go by?
  • List some uses of ammonia.
  • Is ammonia man-made or does it occur naturally – or both?
  • What colour is ammonia gas?
  • Does ammonia have a smell – if so, how would you describe it?

Teacher Tip Icon

  • This would be an excellent time to conduct a practical on making ammonia (subject to school/department requirements and equipment). See the following resource for more information; Making and Testing Ammonia (The Royal Society of Chemistry and The Nuffield Foundation)
  • Alternatively, many household cleaners contain ammonia, such as the product ‘Cloudy Ammonia’ – this may also suffice in giving the students an idea of its pungent odour.


a. Introduction to ammonia. Watch the short film below:

The chemical reaction that feeds the world (Daniel D. Dulek).

  • What is the Haber Process and why is it so important?
  • What are the dangers of ammonia?

Extra Reading – Fritz Haber became known as the ‘father of chemical warfare’.  Learn more about why here: Fritz Haber (Science History Institute).

b. Read the Voiceless Fact Sheet: Across Land and Sea: Live Export Explained. Focus on pages 14-18.

  • How and why does ammonia occur on live export ships?
  • In what ways does it impact the welfare of animals?
  • Brainstorm ways that could mitigate the impact ammonia has on animals on board live export ships.
  • Is it ethical to allow these animal welfare impacts to occur? Why/why not?

c. Did you know that ammonia also affects animals in intensive animal agriculture facilities, otherwise known as ‘factory farms’? Read the following article as a class:

Harmful effects of ammonia on birds (Poultry World).

  • What similarities can you draw between how animals are impacted by ammonia on ships and those who are factory farmed?


In addition to the welfare risks ammonia build-up poses to animals, threats to our environment and human health are also serious. Watch the following clip and then hold a class discussion using the prompts below.

Cutting ammonia emissions from farming could save thousands of lives (Channel 4 News).

Teacher Tip Icon

  • Encourage students to take notes as they watch the video.

Discussion Prompts

  • What are the impacts of ammonia emissions?
  • What significant event happened in 2014?
  • Explain PM2.5.
  • What is a slurry and where are they located?
  • Humans are adversely affected by exposure to dangerous levels of ammonia emissions. Do you think farmers should have to pay to control or reduce their ammonia emissions? Why/why not?


The Future of Ammonia

Using the following resources as reference, students are to create a poster or infographic which conveys the benefits, dangers, and other considerations of turning hydrogen into ammonia or, the ‘good, the bad, and the ugly’ sides of the process and its outcomes.

Useful sources:


Return to the final inquiry question set out at the beginning of the lesson:

  • Can ammonia be used and/or produced responsibly?

Students write a short response to the question above. Encourage them to cite evidence (including references) to support their statements.


Voiceless would be delighted to receive any completed student work to feature on the Voiceless website (student and parental consent required). Please email any work or feedback to

Voiceless is the home of animal protection education in Australia: Click here to explore more Live Export resources banner

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  • Join the Voiceless Community

    For academics, advocates, teachers and students, animal lovers, animal lawyers and everyone in between!
    Sign up below to learn more about our Voiceless Grants Program, our free library of resources on Animal Protection Education and Animal Law Education and other Voiceless related tidbits.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.