It’s time for a national approach to animal welfare

17 May 2017

Animal welfare laws in Australia are failing, and the Productivity Commission believes Australian animals need a national champion. The government should follow its advice.

At any one time, Australians have in their care 76 million sheep, 29 million cattle, 99 million chickens and 33 million companion animals.

And clearly, we believe their welfare should be a priority. A Galaxy poll last year showed 72% of Australians believe farm animals could be better treated in Australia and 84% of Australians believe the federal government should set goals for animal welfare and have a plan to meet them.

The community clearly believes the welfare of these animals could be improved and a national approach is needed.

In March, the Productivity Commission – an influential advisory body to the federal government – recommended the government establish an Australian Commission for Animal Welfare (ACAW) in its final report on agriculture regulation.

The ACAW would be supported by science and community ethics advisory committees.

This body is broadly similar to the independent national agency World Animal Protection supporters have been calling for for over 18 months. Over 65,000 people wrote to their MP or signed our petition for an Independent Office of Animal Welfare. This agency would oversee the improvement of Australia’s animal welfare laws: setting national animal welfare standards, providing a forum for debate between stakeholders, and ensuring the ministers responsible receive balanced, well informed advice.

The Productivity Commission’s recommendation was a major boost for our campaign.

Fixing a broken system

At the moment, responsibility for Australia’s animals lies with the states and territories – after the Australian government disbanded the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in 2013. This was a major step backward for animals, allowing their welfare to slip through the cracks.

The current patchwork system is not only failing Australian animals, but also falling short of community values and creating reputational risks for producers. Even industry groups have criticised the lack of national frameworks – Mick Keogh, Executive Director of the Australia Farm Institute, has referred to the system as ‘disjointed and fragmented’.

Australia is trailing behind countries like New Zealand and the UK on animal welfare standards. Without national leadership, proper community consultation and balanced dialogue, progress on animal welfare will not only stall, but could go backwards.

The ACAW would not only end needless suffering for Australia’s animals, but would help industry and consumers too by making animal welfare standards simpler and easier to understand. 

Next steps

World Animal Protection is currently seeking a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce to discuss the establishment of an Australian Commission for Animal Welfare and the re-establishment of a national strategy for animal welfare.

Whether the Minister agrees to meet with us or not, we will continue to campaign for a national approach to the welfare of Australia’s animals. And we will need your support. 

Sign the petition now.

The community clearly believes the welfare of these animals could be improved and a national approach is needed.