The committee established to drive the implementation of the 2010-2014 Australian Animal Welfare Strategy is one 16 advisory groups scrapped under cost-cutting measures by the Federal Government.
The 15-person committee comprised of a mix of stakeholder representatives and experts in various fields of animal welfare and was tasked with outlining future directions for the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and helping to keep the broader community up to date with animal welfare arrangements in Australia.
Among other projects the committee has recently overseen the development of animal welfare standards and guidelines for the cattle and sheep industries.
The Coalition Government announced on Friday it believes the 16 advisory groups it is cutting have largely fulfilled the purpose for which they were developed and the continuation of their work can now be absorbed back into Government Departments.
Committee chairman and former Australian Government Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Gardner Murray told ABC Radio on Friday that dissolving the group was unwise because animal welfare was a huge mainstream issue under intense public scrutiny.
Dr Murray said Australia's approach to animal welfare was highly regarded internationally, and disbanding the Advisory Committee would harm the development and implementation of policy in the future.
“It's a very inclusive body that is representative across the spectrum, and a body like that is pretty unique.
"What we suggest and recommend are really agreed by a whole group, so yes, there is simply no question in the world that by abolishing the Committee you're going to lose something significant," he told ABC.
"Government has got to make its own decisions about how it's going to manage and reduce monies, sometimes in the process of looking at budgets the qualitative nature of the purpose is excluded from the thought process, but I have no idea if that's happened in government.
"It doesn't strike me as being a wise move."
The National Farmers Federation, which also had a representative on the Committee, says the important question is whether the national animal welfare effort will be better or worse off as a result of the decision.
"My answer is that we absolutely support the Government in its efforts to reduce red tape," NFF chief executive Matt Linnegar said.
"There's always someone who'll be disappointed by a committee like this going, but have to support measures that reduce red tape.
"So long as the Government don't scrap the Animal Welfare Strategy itself, and that's still acted upon, then we won't be materially worse off than we were before this decision was made.
"But we recognise that getting those players together in one room, to offer consensus advice to government, is worthwhile.
"The impetus is now on all those groups, including NFF, to find a way of getting together anyway, in the absence of this Committee."
The RSPCA has described the committee’s axing as “shocking”.
The RSPCA said the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy is underpinned by the vision that “all Australians value animals and are committed to improving their welfare”.
“The Strategy brings people together with a diverse range of views from within all animal sectors, including farm animals, companion animals, animals in research, animals in sport, wildlife, aquatic animals, etc. This allows for robust and considered debate and provides a forum from which the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee can seek input and progress the welfare of animals in Australia,” an RSPCA statement said.
“The RSPCA has been advised that the Minister of Agriculture will now be receiving all of his advice on animal welfare issues from his Department."
The advisory groups axed are the Australian Animals Welfare Advisory Committee; Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Committee; International Legal Services Advisory Committee; National Inter-country Adoption Advisory Council; National Steering Committee on Corporate Wrongdoing; Antarctic Animal Ethics Committee; Advisory Panel on the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula; High Speed Rail Advisory Group; Maritime Workforce Development Forum; Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing; Insurance Reform Advisory Group; and the National Housing Supply Council.
Representatives on the Australian Animal Welfare Committee were chair Dr Gardner Murray; Representative Member – National Farmers' Federation: Bill Bray; Representative Member – States and Territories: Rick Symons; Representative Member – Commonwealth Government: Phillip Glyde; Representative Member – animal advocacy sector: Glenys Oogjes; Expert member – animal research and teaching: Mary Barton; Expert member – livestock production: Keith Adams; Expert member – work, sport, action and on-display: Norm Blackman; Expert member – companion animals: Hugh Wirth; Expert member – native, introduced and feral animals: Helen Cathles; Expert member – aquatic animals: Brett McCallum; Expert member – education and training: Kevin Doyle; Expert member – research and development: Lyndy Scott; Expert member – communications: Dedee Woodside; and AUSAWAC Secretary Peter Thornber.