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AMIC Q & A:
Animal Welfare practices in the Australian processing industry

31 May 2011

What are the laws governing animal welfare in Australia?

Under Australia’s constitutional arrangements, state and territory governments are responsible for animal welfare arrangements within their jurisdictions. The states and territories set and enforce animal welfare standards through animal welfare or prevention of cruelty to animals legislation.

The Animal Welfare Act sets out the basic obligations relating to the care and killing of animals. One of these is that animals must be killed in such a manner that they do not suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress. The following Acts operate within each State/Territory jurisdiction:
• Australian Capital Territory — Animal Welfare Act 1992 (www.environment.act.gov.au)
• Queensland - Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (www.dpi.qld.gov.au)_
• New South Wales — Animals Act 1997, Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986, Animal Research Act 1985 (www.agric.nsw.gov.au)
• Northern Territory — Animal Welfare Act 2001 (www.nt.gov.au)
• South Australia — Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1985 (www.pir.sa.gov.au)
• Tasmania — Animal Welfare Act 1993 (www.dpiw.tas.gov.au)
• Victoria — Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (www.dpi.vic.gov.au)
• Western Australia — Animal Welfare Act 2002 (www.agric.wa.gov.au)

The Act does not provide detailed guidance on how this obligation can be met, it is found in the regulations within each State and the Codes of Practice. The Acts adopt National (Model) Codes of Practice for livestock and allows inspectors to issue animal welfare directions if standards are not met. The Codes contain minimum animal welfare standards covering all aspects of slaughter that are required to be met by all Australian meat processors. Failure to meet a minimum standard can be used as evidence to support a prosecution under the Act.

The Code of Practice relating to the management of livestock at Australian processing plants can be found at http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/22/sid/11.htm

Slaughter practices are also enforced by the relevant licensing bodies, including the State Meat Authorities under the relevant Meat Industry Acts, and AQIS for the Commonwealth.
 

Australian processors are also required as part of their licenses to meet specific regulations, described in the Codes of Practice, standards and notices that enforce the appropriate management and handling of livestock and prevent practices which are considered cruel and/or that causes or results in unnecessary harm, neglect or suffering of animals.

**Note that the legislative arrangements slightly vary across the jurisdictions. For further information, contact the relevant State or Territory Department of Primary Industries

What is the Code of Practice for livestock at Processing Establishments and how is it used to enforce animal welfare practices?

The Model Codes were commissioned by the Primary Industries Standing Committee and endorsed by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council. These Codes are implemented to differing levels of state and territory legislation and have largely served as (voluntary) guides for people responsible for the welfare and husbandry of a range of livestock animals. For further information on the development process for the Codes of Practice, go to: http://www.daff.gov.au/animal-plant-health/welfare/model_code_of_practice_for_the_welfare_of_animals
 

Animal welfare inspectors refer to adopted codes in assessing whether the Duty of Care is being met. These Codes contain agreed minimum standards of animal welfare in the livestock industries and have been developed in full consultation with animal industries, animal welfare groups and relevant state and commonwealth government bodies.

Slaughter practices are also enforced by the relevant licensing bodies, including the State Meat Authorities under the relevant Meat Industry Acts, and AQIS for the Commonwealth.

**Note that the legislative arrangements slightly vary across the jurisdictions. For further information, contact the relevant State or Territory Department of Primary Industries.

When are Standards and Codes reviewed?

As part of a commitment to ensuring that the highest standards of livestock welfare are practiced in Australia all codes of practice are subject to periodical review to make certain that they are up-to-date and improve standards of animal welfare.

The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals were all developed by the Animal Welfare Working Group in consultation with State/Territory/Commonwealth Departments with responsibility for agriculture and/or animal welfare, the CSIRO, the veterinary profession, industry, researchers, retailers/processors and animal welfare groups. The review incorporated a full and formal public consultation process on the impact of the proposed changes as discussed in the Regulation Impact Statement (RIS).

The Australian Animal Welfare Strategy, an initiative of the Federal Government, has identified enhanced national consistency in regulation and sustainable improvements in animal welfare based on science, national and international benchmarks and changing community standards as areas of priority effort. Work is now underway to integrate the Codes of Practice under each of the Animal Welfare Acts within the States, to ensure more rigorous enforcement and to incorporate both national welfare standards and industry ‘best practice' guidelines for each species or enterprise.

Now that regulated standards are being made, these will be reviewed in the same manner as the Codes, with full public consultation processes, facilitated by the Commonwealth Government. For further information, go to: www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au or www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au .

How does the government determine ‘reasonable’ animal welfare standards?

Scientific research and experience determine whether a change to an existing standard or guideline will improve the welfare of animals or not. There is a worldwide research effort to determine reasonable and practicable methods to improve welfare. Research is funded by industry and government. Government departments, CSIRO, Universities and a number of other research groups across Australia are being funded to investigate enhanced livestock management options. For further information, go to: www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au or www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au .

How does the Code improve the welfare of livestock?

The Code outlines the general principles and requirements for good animal care. It is for all persons responsible for the welfare of livestock at processing establishments (from the point of receival from the transporter to the point of slaughter). The purpose of the Code is to encourage owners and people in charge of livestock at processing establishments to aim for a high level of welfare.

How are the standards and guidelines within the Code of Practice for Livestock Slaughter enforced in each State and Territory?

The Code provides all people and the community with a guide to what is acceptable practice for the management of livestock at Slaughter establishments.

Animal welfare inspectors refer to adopted Codes in assessing whether the Duty of Care is being met. The Codes contain agreed minimum standards of animal welfare in the livestock industries and have been developed in full consultation with animal industries, animal welfare groups and relevant state and commonwealth government bodies. Where the standards outlined in the Code are not met prosecution for causing cruelty or suffering may be initiated. Within the meat processing industry, the Codes are integrated within enterprise Quality Assurance (QA) programs – to ensure compliance with animal welfare legislation.

Slaughter practices are also enforced by the relevant licensing bodies, including the State Meat Authorities under the relevant Meat Industry Acts, and AQIS for the Commonwealth.

**Note that the legislative arrangements slightly vary across the jurisdictions. For further information, contact the relevant State or Territory Department of Primary Industries.


The Australian processing industry is committed to, and serious about, delivering good animal welfare outcomes and measuring continuous improvement. To this end, the meat processing industry and inspectors operating in the industry validate compliance daily, weekly and monthly with animal welfare requirements.

What other standards does the industry have in place besides legislation?

The Australian processing industry has developed and implemented worlds best practice animal welfare standards:
• The Australian processing industry, in 2005, developed and implemented the AMIC ‘Industry Animal Welfare Standards for Livestock Processing Establishments’.
• These best practice Standards integrate the national Codes of Practice, relevant State and Commonwealth legislation and other commercial requirements, as well incorporating literature from Australia and overseas and customers.
• The Standards were developing by a national committee, comprising representatives from Government, science, animal welfare organisations (RSPCA and Animal’s Australia), as well as technical experts and representatives from industry. Corresponding members also provided external review of the Standards, including Dr Temple Grandin who is responsible for many international peer reviewed papers on animal welfare and livestock handling, as well as the development of US animal welfare standards.
• The Standards are verified by Commonwealth and State inspectors and also commercial auditors on behalf of customers.
• At the Commonwealth level, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) legally sanctions and recognises the Standard within its regulatory framework and maintains a presence at export establishments to assess measure and review animal welfare practices on a daily basis. AQIS also conduct an annual audit against the AMIC standards, in support of being able to benchmark continual industry improvement.

What standards internationally does the Australian Meat Processing industry work to?

The Australian Meat Industry Council’s animal welfare standards and the Codes of Practice underpinning Australian legislation refer to the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA)’s internationally recognised ‘five freedoms’ as providing valuable guidance on animal welfare outcomes. The RSPCA’s five freedoms which guide the industry standards and Codes of Practice are as follows:
• Freedom from hunger and thirst,
• Freedom from discomfort,
• Freedom from pain, injury and disease,
• Freedom to express normal behaviour,
• Freedom from fear and distress.

The above 5 Freedoms underpin the Codes and Standards and are referenced in on-plant standard operating procedures which form part of the enterprise QA programs.

In addition, the AMIC animal welfare standards integrate the requirements of the International Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the standards required by other countries including the United States, Food Marketing Institute which were developed by Dr Temple Grandin. There is also an abundance of customer specific animal welfare standards that processors must meet.

What activities are the Australian Processing Industry involved in that demonstrate commitment to animal welfare?

The Australian processing industry has invested considerably in animal welfare Research and Development over the last 5 years. This includes funding for the development of Standards, participation in Government standard setting processes, research on plant and across the supply chain towards enhancing livestock management, handling and slaughter practices and the delivery of training and education to industry and the community.

The Australian processing industry also contributes directly through the Federal Government initiative, the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) (http://www.daff.gov.au/animal-plant-health/welfare/aaws). The Strategy’s vision is “that the welfare of all animals in Australia is promoted and protected by the adoption of practical, effective and humane animal welfare standards”. This is consistent with AMIC’s animal welfare mission which is to ensure acceptable animal welfare standards are implemented and effectively verified.

Does the industry ensure its people working with livestock are trained appropriately?

The Australia processing industry invests heavily in ensuring its employees are trained and competent in animal welfare:
• Meat processing operations are required to ensure personnel are trained and competent when handling livestock
• In the last three years over 300 personnel have undertaken the “Animal Welfare Officer Skill Set” course. In addition every year approximately 150 new stock handlers undertake the ‘Livestock Handling’ course.

 

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