PROPOSED animal welfare policy initiatives announced by the Australian Labor Party have fallen short of wool grower expectations, WoolProducers Australia said last week.
The ALP last week the ALP said an Albanese Labor Government will provide $1 million a year to establish the office of the independent Inspector-General for Animal Welfare to increase accountability and transparency for reporting of animal welfare breaches.
It would also work with state and territory governments and allocate $5 million over four years to renew the Animal Welfare Strategy. The statement from ALP leader Anthony Albanese said the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare will strengthen reports to the Parliament on new and emerging live export markets, numbers exported and mortalities, allegations of breaches of animal welfare standards and investigations undertaken, and any sanctions or other action taken for breaches of Australia’s animal welfare standards. The ALP said in its statement that currently, only live export mortalities and actions taken are reported; however, the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment already reports breaches of ESCAS and Independent Observer reports from voyages. There is also already an Inspector General for Live Animal Exports whose principal role is animal welfare.
The party said it will phase out live sheep exports in consultation with the industry and the West Australian Government, including consideration of the impacts for the entire value chain of the industry. But it remains committed to the Northern Summer live sheep export trade ban based on the scientific evidence included in the draft report by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.
Labor said it also supports value adding to create more job opportunities.
“We do not believe setting a deadline on the industry is appropriate.
“Labor will not ban cattle exports,” the statement said.
“The scientific advice does not support a ban on cattle exports as long as strong animal welfare standards are in place.”
ALP has failed to engage – WPA
However, WoolProducers Australia said the ALP’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Julie Collins, and her ALP colleagues have failed to engage with and acknowledge the work of livestock industries in the lead up to the announcement. The peak growers’ body said the ALP announcement fails to acknowledge the high level of industry investment towards improving animal health and welfare by proposing a ban to live sheep exports and wasteful duplication through the establishment of the office of the independent Inspector-General for Animal Welfare.
WoolProducers president Ed Storey said it’s disappointing that Ms Collins wouldn’t comment on Labor’s animal welfare policy at the agriculture leaders debate at the National Press Club three weeks ago, only promising that industry would be happy.
“Today’s announcement has fallen well short of our expectations.
“It’s frustrating that the ALP has seemingly found the time to engage with the animal rights groups before today’s announcement, while failing to engage with industry,” Mr Storey said.
WoolProducers said the proposed reporting functions of the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare to parliament is nothing more than a $1 million per year duplication of pre-existing industry and government reporting processes.
“It is alarming that the core reporting functions of the proposed Inspector-General are based on negative metrics, a clear indication of the underlying intent of this policy announcement.
“If the ALP took the time to engage with industry, they would appreciate the significant investment of grower levies and the work undertaken through industry-government partnerships to continually improve animal welfare,” Mr Storey said.
“We’re disappointed Labor seems to have listened to a squeaky minority that refuse to believe livestock industries are invested in their animals in every way.
“We can only hope that if Labour is successful in the forthcoming election that their promised “industry consultation” makes an appearance,” he said.
WoolProducers said domestic animal welfare regulations are set by respective state and territory governments, not the federal government, and while the WPA supported alignment of animal welfare standards where possible, the need exists to have animal welfare regulatory frameworks to support lifetime animal welfare outcomes in the context of respective jurisdictional climatic conditions and production systems.
The WPA said the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep were finalised in consultation with industry, government and animal welfare groups in 2016 and have supported the development of legislation and associated compliance and enforcement activities since that time.
“I’d love to see greater alignment between states and territories on a range of matters, however this policy announcement appears to show a complete lack of understanding of the challenges that come with our federated system of government.
“We have seen challenges with cross-border management of natural disasters, the provision of healthcare and education services and more recently in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Storey said.
“To think that spending $5 million over four years can magically alleviate these challenges for animal welfare is a pipedream.”
ALP listening to small uninformed minority – NFF
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson also said Labor isn’t prepared to be informed about the live sheep export sector’s monumental improvements and the importance of the industry to producers, communities and Australia’s trading partners.
“They continue to beholden to a small, uninformed minority made up of radicals who invade farms and steal animals.”
Ms Simson said Australia’s live sheep exports needed to fundamentally improve and it had.
“Industry initiatives, regulatory reviews and research have all contributed to improved animal welfare outcomes.
“Shipments of sheep to the Middle East have been stopped by regulation during the hottest periods of the northern hemisphere summer,” she said.
“Disappointingly, instead of equipping themselves with the facts and listening and working with farmers and industry, Labor has copied and pasted their reckless policy from 2019 without any consideration for the 2022 context.
“The policy is a massive blow to the farmers and communities who rely on sheep exports,” Ms Simson said.
“It sends a shiver down the spine of all farmers about the precedent it sets. If live sheep exports can be so easily be written off, what’s next?” she said.
“It’s industry who Labor should listen to when it comes to the welfare of farm animals, not city-based minority radicals.”
“The NFF’s discussions to date with Leader Anthony Albanese and agriculture spokesperson Julie Collins on the big issues confronting agriculture, unfortunately seem to have to fallen on deaf ears,” Ms Simson said.
“We invite Mr Albanese, Ms Collins and any other member of the Labor team to actually visit a farm and see first hand how farmers operate.
“So far, there’s been crickets from Labor on climate and sustainability and its intersection with agriculture; water management and a bona fide plan for regional development.”