Federal Government moves to establish an Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animals Exports have drawn concerned reactions from livestock industry groups and the federal opposition.
Federal agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced the decision to create the position on Wednesday while opening the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy National Workshop.
The move has triggered accusations by the federal oppostition that the Government is saddling Australian livestock producers with another layer of unnecessary regulation in order to appease internal interest groups within the Labor Party.
Shadow agriculture minister John Cobb said the minister had previously stated that Australia already had 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 Cobb said the inspector general appointment would add more unnecessary red tape, compliance and cost to the livestock industry.
“This is just the forerunner to an office for animal welfare which would without a doubt attempt to bring to a halt all animal production in Australia,” Mr Cobb said.
“Of the 109 countries exporting live animals, Australia is the only nation in the world actively changing attitudes and practices in those markets.
“Let’s be proud of the good job that our producers do in caring for their animals every single day, instead of finding reasons to rule an industry out of existence.”
Cattle Council of Australia president Andrew Ogilvie said the council was unsure of the necessity of the position given the numerous proven safeguards currently in place, but said it would continue to work with government to ensure continuing improvement in Animal welfare both domestically and overseas.
“Cattle Council will be watching the development of this legislation very closely and will be holding the Minister to his commitment that the new role would not create additional red-tape or regulatory burden for farmers or the broader industry” Mr Ogilvie said.
Sheepmeat Council of Australia chief executive Ron Cullen said it was hard to see any justification for the position.
“There is very little detail on the functions of this new position and we are concerned that, despite the Minister’s assurances, this will be another cost to our business.”
“It also looks like a vote of no confidence in the current system. It is critical that we support the structures we already have in place.
“We are fully supportive of the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) that underpins our live export trade. It has been developed to ensure the treatment of Australian exported livestock meets or exceeds world animal welfare standards. It’s a rigorous system of control providing animal welfare outcomes across the live export supply chain.”
Mr Cullen said another layer of regulation would not improve animal welfare.
“What’s needed is a focus on people, a focus on education and training.
“Our industry has made substantial investment in improving animal welfare in our export destinations. It’s been that investment that has resulted in better animal welfare.
“It’s also of concern that Memorandums of Understanding are now being asked for in all new markets. The introduction of ESCAS makes MoUs redundant, so to ask our trading parties to sign on to such agreements is nothing more than a trade barrier. More paper, more bureaucracy, more cost to industry, no improvement in welfare.”
The RSPCA said the additional scrutiny of processes to regulate the live export trade was welcome.
National president Lynne Bradshaw said that for the new role to make a real difference, it must enshrine the following principles:
- Independence from industry influence and provide fair, balanced and impartial advice;
- Include timely and accessible public consultation; and
- transparent and accountable decision making.
“Alongside these principles it will be vital that evidence-based policy and decisions are integral to the process,” Mrs Bradshaw said.
“The person who is appointed into this important role must be completely independent of the live export, cattle and sheep industries in order for them to properly scrutinize the live export trade and ensure vital improvements are implemented.
“RSPCA Australia looks forward being consulted on the scope and activities of the Independent Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports,” said Mrs Bradshaw.
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