A new voluntary livestock processing industry animal welfare certification program designed to help processors demonstrate their commitment to best practice animal welfare to customers was launched at an industry conference this afternoon.
The Australian Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) was launched during the Australian Meat Industry Council’s national conference on the Gold Coast. AMIC is the industry’s peak body representing livestock processors and independent retailers.
The AAWCS is an independently audited certification program used by livestock processors to demonstrate compliance with the processing industry’s pre-existing best-practice animal welfare standards.
In launching the AAWCS initiative, AMIC animal welfare committee chairman Tom Maguire said good animal welfare practice was a requirement of customers of the Australian meat and livestock industry, both within Australia and around the world.
“The AAWCS has been developed to help Australian livestock processors demonstrate to their customers their superior commitment to best practice animal welfare,” Mr Maguire said.
The AAWCS covers all animal welfare activities at the processing establishment – from receival of livestock to the point of humane processing.
At the core of the system is a commitment to comply with the ‘Industry Animal Welfare Standards for Livestock Processing Establishments.’
“These Standards integrate Australia’s mandatory animal welfare requirements at livestock processing establishments together with commercial and international requirements into a single best-practice animal welfare standard for livestock processors,” Mr Maguire said.
The Standards were first developed in 2005 by an industry-led committee comprising representatives from government, the scientific community, animal welfare organisations, as well as technical experts and Industry representatives, and are regularly reviewed to ensure they remain current.
“The AAWCS introduces an independently-audited certification program to underpin the Standards that helps participating livestock processors demonstrate their superior commitment to best practice animal welfare,” Mr Maguire said.
Participating livestock processors commit to the certification program rules, requiring them to implement the Standards in their documented Quality Management System, which is overseen by a member of management to make sure best practice animal welfare is maintained.
The Quality Management System includes Standard Operating Procedures, Work Instructions, monitoring, verification and recording systems, and preventive and corrective actions.
Staff who handle and process livestock must also be competent and trained in the required animal welfare skills. Specific animal welfare training courses provided by Mintrac, the Industry’s training organisation, are available to help meet this requirement.
To maintain certification, participating livestock processors must also engage in an annual audit by an approved auditor.
“Auditors under the AAWCS are approved by AusMeat and are required to meet specific animal welfare and auditing competency criteria. This ensures a consistent approach to animal welfare auditing and integrity in the certification process,” Mr Maguire said.
Processors that are certified under the AAWCS also have exclusive rights to use the AAWCS trademark, pictured above.
“The Trademark can be used to promote the participant’s certification status to customers, and that the establishment’s brands and products have been processed in accordance with the scope of the program – from receival of livestock to the processing establishment to the point of humane processing,” he said.
“The AAWCS helps livestock processors assure their customers, and the general community, that their establishment is operating to best practice animal welfare standards which are independently audited and certified.”
Participation is voluntary and available to any Australian export or domestic establishment that processes cattle, sheep, pigs or goats.
The Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System is an initiative of the Australian Meat Industry Council, with support from the Australian Meat Processor Corporation and AusMeat.
- More on the new animal welfare program later today.