AUSTRALIA’S livestock exporters want their world-leading animal welfare standards rolled out globally.
A review aimed at fine tuning standards that regulate the handling of stock in Australia’s livestock export supply chains is just one component of significant industry and government moves on the animal welfare front.
Ultimately, the goal is international embracement of our standards, which would not only advance animal welfare efforts exponentially but restore Australia’s competitive position in the live export game.
The Federal Government has just set up an expert technical advisory committee, which will conduct a review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL). It will be headed by experienced livestock veterinarian and former Western Australian senator Dr Chris Back.
The Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) lobbied hard for the review, arguing it would ensure ASEL reflects new technology and research and that industry standards are aligned with community expectations.
ALEC chairman Simon Crean said the live export sector had been active on a number of fronts to put in place a series of regulatory advancements on animal welfare standards.
ASEL, which covers the handling of animals from farmgate to the point of discharge in the exporting country, has to remain a benchmark which promotes a sustainable and growing live trade for Australia, according to ALEC.
Australia also has in place a system which regulates handling through to slaughter once stock have left Australia, the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) which was developed after the 2011 suspension on the trade to Indonesia.
ESCAS is a world-first concept and Australia’s live exporters are now looking to have other nations take it on, via the new Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP).
Federal funds have just been secured to set up an independent LGAP company that will assess the adherence to animal welfare standards of all supply chains.
LGAP is expected to be rolled out on a market-by-market basis once further work on more effective control and traceability is complete.
“Whilst it brings attention to welfare in a way that no other country does, the fundamental problem with ESCAS has been Australia is the only country requiring the exporter to take responsibility for the welfare of the animal right up the point of slaughter,” Mr Crean explained.
“And there are 130 countries globally exporting cattle.
“What we doing is requiring the facilities in-country to take more responsibility for the welfare of animals - that means improving control and traceability systems.”
Mr Crean said as Australia negotiated free trade agreements, it should be asking partners, such as the European Union, to embrace the standards our livestock exporters do.
“The OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) recognises Australia’s animal welfare standards as world-leading - well we want it embraced by the world,” he said.
“This is still a work in progress but it’s the agenda this industry is pursuing.”
The new committee, which will ultimately provide recommendations to the Federal Government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, also comprises animal welfare experts Dr Theresa Collins and Dr Hugh Millar, regulation specialist Russell Phillips and livestock export industry expert Kevin Shiell. It will be supported by the likes of the RSPCA and livestock producer groups.
ALEC chief executive officer Simon Westaway said ASEL was regarded as the gold standard in terms of the global livestock export trade.
“But exporters are never complacent abou the need for ongoing improvement,” he said.