THERE’s been an unprecedented response to a call for public submissions on the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry, following the closure of the 90-day public consultation period yesterday.
More than 165,000 submissions were received by Animal Health Australia, indicating the depth of public feeling about animal welfare, and specifically as it relates to the egg and meat chicken industries.
Animal Health Australia chief executive Kathleen Plowman confirmed that the figure was easily a record for calls for such public consultations managed by AHA.
“It’s currently five times the amount of submissions received during the development of welfare standards and guidelines for other industries, mindful that final numbers won’t be known for a few more weeks as collation continues,” she said in a statement issued today.
Beef Central was told by an AHA spokesperson that submissions ranged from quite detailed and elaborate responses, to ‘single line’ replies from individuals.
“Both RSPCA and Animals Australia obviously did a good job in spreading awareness of the process,” she said.
Given the extreme number of responses submitted, Beef Central asked AHA what proportion represented ‘formatted’ or ‘templated ’ responses, typically produced by animal welfare activists. A spokesman said the sheer number or responses meant it was too soon to attempt to categorise them.
Big contrast in public responses compared with beef
The poultry result is in sharp contrast with the parallel development of Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for cattle, completed earlier.
AHA received about 20,250 emails and letters during the cattle public consultation period. The cattle standards and guidelines were agreed by State and Territory Governments in January 2016, and are currently being regulated into law by most State and Territory governments.
The implementation dates for the Cattle standards by State and Territory can be found here http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/cattle/
In its statement about today’s poultry industry public response, AHA said it recognised and appreciated the efforts of all stakeholders who helped spread the word about public consultation, ensuring the message went far and wide.
“Such extensive public consultation is what we set out to achieve, so it’s a fantastic result,” Ms Plowman said.
“We also thank everyone who shared their views on the draft document. These submissions will help guide the development of the next version of the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry and ensure that a robust document is delivered to Australia’s agriculture ministers.”
AHA said the draft standards marked an important step forward in poultry welfare in Australia, moving from the existing voluntary system to national regulation.
The submissions will now be reviewed by an independent consultant, who will deliver a report with key findings to the Animal Welfare Task Group. The AWTG includes representatives from all government jurisdictions.
Based on these findings, a revised welfare standards for poultry document will be developed under the direction of the AWTG.
The revised welfare standards will then be provided for consideration to the Stakeholder Advisory Group, which is comprised of representatives from industry bodies, welfare organisations and all government jurisdictions.
The S&Gs document will be finalised by the AWTG and progressed to Australia’s agricultural ministers.
The independent consultant’s report and the major submissions will be available in June on the Animal Welfare Standards website.