The Rudd Government will establish a new independent position to review and audit Australia’s live animal export trade processes and systems to strengthen the country's animal welfare assurance system.
Joel Fitzgibbon announced the measure this morning at the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy National Workshop in Surfers Paradise.
The Independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports will be an independent, statutory office holder, reporting directly to the Minister.
“Australia has the strongest animal welfare assurance system in the world and we are the only country that requires specific animal welfare conditions are met for exported livestock,” Mr Fitzgibbon said in a media release announcing the move.
“Since becoming Minister, my priority has been to review our live export system and restore public confidence.
“The Independent Inspector-General will audit and review the live animal export regulator across the supply chain, including our investigation and compliance procedures, adding an important layer of independence to the regulatory system to ensure it delivers animal welfare outcomes.”
The Independent Inspector-General builds on measures already put in place by the Australian Government to regulate animal welfare in the live animal export trade, including:
- The implementation of a world-leading animal welfare assurance system, known as the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS)
- Funding a range of projects to strengthen the implementation and delivery of ESCAS both domestically and internationally, including workshops with exporters to build community attitudes; and
- Ensuring Australia has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with new markets that take our livestock.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the appointment of the Independent Inspector-General would not create additional red-tape or regulatory burden for farmers or the broader industry.
“This is a sensible extension to a world-leading system that adheres to international animal welfare standards, while not overloading industry with unnecessary regulation,” he said.
“The Independent Inspector-General will provide assurance and oversight of the role of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as the regulator of live animal exports.”
The Inspector-General will also be responsible for reviewing two national animal welfare committees and ensuring they deliver against their workplans.
Draft legislation will now be developed to define the scope and appropriate powers of the new role.
Australian Livestock Exporters Council response:
The Australian Livestock Exporters Council issued the following response to Mr Fitzgibbon's announcement this morning:
Demonstrated commitment and delivery of humane treatment and slaughter of livestock is critical to the future of the livestock exports and industry takes its responsibility in this area very seriously, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Alison Penfold said today.
“The livestock export sector supports initiatives that will strengthen the integrity of regulatory and control systems and provide the Australian community with greater assurances that Australian livestock are handled and slaughtered humanely here or when exported overseas.
“With little detail about the Terms of Reference and Charter of the Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports, it is difficult for industry to comment on the merits or otherwise of the proposed Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports and whether it will in our view deliver the assurances required.
“What we can say is that livestock exports and animal welfare are not mutually exclusive. Humane treatment and slaughter of export Australian livestock through the export supply chain is our critical goal and we know from past incidents that more can be done – not just on the ground, but in demonstrating to the community the integrity of industry systems and the oversight provided by Australian regulation.
“Industry is rightly concerned that the Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports could become just an additional layer of regulation that increases costs, tie up industry and the department in red tape and reviews, restricts industry’s capacity to reasonably operate in or open new markets and in fact is just another throw away election commitment that addresses a perceived political problem but does not address the concerns of industry, animal welfare groups and stakeholders.”
Ms Penfold said that in industry’s view the push for increased oversight of export regulatory processes is a concern that Government and industry has a lack of control over animal welfare in the export supply chain and that this is in part due to an inadequate regulatory process.
“We hear these concerns loud and clear.
“There are clearly challenges in achieving the standards of welfare expected by Australians in overseas markets. The establishment of ESCAS has delivered a system of control that gives exporters the capacity to track, manage and oversee Australian livestock through the export process – it is still early days for this system in many markets but we are focused on improving our controls in partnership with government, customers and industry stakeholders.
“No one should underestimate the massive reform underway across our livestock export markets. The scale of change comes with its challenges as have been highlighted by incidents of inhumane treatment and slaughter of livestock in several supply chains. Rather than demonstrate that this is a system that is broken, these incidents highlight the necessity for industry to continue working on the range of controls in place and to continue the program of investment in changing the attitudes, behaviours and skills required for the important task for caring for livestock.
“Regulations set in Australia only get us so far in our markets overseas. Exporters and customers are working together to educate and instruct the people who handle and care for the livestock 24/7 to deliver good animal welfare as well as providing new and improved slaughter equipment, races and yard infrastructure in feedlots and abattoirs to reduce the stress on livestock and the workers in these facilities.
While Australian remains the only livestock exporting nation out of over 100 others that is demonstrating actively our inherent commitment to good animal welfare practices, we are working to increase and improve our systems all the time.”
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