EUROPEAN Union ministers have been urged to seek equivalency on animal welfare standards from Australia by a group seeking to ban the mulesing of sheep, as the EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement continues to be negotiated.
Animal welfare and conservation organisation Humane Society International Australia firmly believes the EU should be seeking equivalency on animal welfare standards from Australia.
HSI Australia is also running an online campaign urging supporters to call on Australia’s state and federal agriculture ministers to support an urgent update of sheep welfare standards to require a phase out of mulesing by 2030.
HSI Australia’s animal welfare campaigner Georgie Dolphin said the ‘Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep’ are weak because they still allow wool producers to practice mulesing without pain relief.
“As consumers are increasingly concerned by animal welfare issues, many are keen to proactively engage where possible to prompt change.
“Through HSI Australia’s latest action, supporters can contact the Federal Agriculture Minister together with all state and territory Agriculture Ministers calling on them to support an urgent update of the sheep welfare standards to require a phase out of mulesing by 2030,” she said.
“They are also calling for pain management for all invasive procedures on lambs immediately, including tail docking, castration, and pre- and post-mulesing.”
Ms Dolphin said the mulesing issue has drawn negative attention in Australia’s recent free trade negotiations with the United Kingdom and the EU.
“HSI Australia has presented to the EU parliament on the issue and has been corresponding and meeting with appropriate ministers to urge this change.
“A 2030 deadline to end mulesing is a realistic and achievable industry target,” she said.
“The sooner we see this legislation in place to fast-track this progress, the better, for both the welfare of millions of lambs as well as for the Australian wool industry’s reputation.”
HSI EU held a forum in the EU Parliament on 23 May to discuss animal welfare in the EU/Australia FTA. It was hosted by a Member of the European Parliament and attended by Australian and EU negotiators.
HIS Australia’s head of campaigns, Nicola Beynon, presented alongside Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for HSI/Europe, as well as representatives of animal protection non-government organisations.
Ms Dolphin said Ms Beynon highlighted that Australia is already lagging behind the EU when it comes to its farm animal welfare standards. The forum discussed how the EU is considering further strengthening its standards for farm animal welfare, that could see Australia fall further behind, HSI said.
Ms Beynon explained that it is imperative Australia’s federal, state and territory governments start paying attention to what the animal welfare scientists, animal protection organisations and concerned citizens are saying about meeting the welfare needs of farm animals, Ms Dolphin said.
“They must take urgent action to revamp our own animal welfare laws and standards with the same kind of level of ambition that our European trading partners are showing.”
In regard to mulesing, Ms Beynon proposed that the best solution for Australian wool producers is to breed flystrike resistant sheep and undertake an urgent review of Australia’s National Standards and Guidelines for Sheep to address the practice.
“Animal welfare is certainly being raised as a priority issue by the EU and concern over this issue does nothing to assist Australia in the FTA negotiations.”
HSI Australia said its call for support to update Australian animal welfare legislation has only just been launched, but a separate action to encourage retailers to phase out mulesed wool from their supply chains has secured more than 5000 sign-ons.
Ms Dolphin said HSI Australia will seek policies to end mulesing and for mandatory pain relief pre and post cut from all parties at all relevant elections. HSI Australia has recently submitted to Labor’s draft National Platform calling for an overhaul of Australia’s animal welfare standard setting processes.
“We want to see a reformed process that is independent and timely, keeping up with science and community expectations, and so that outdated painful practices like mulesing can be phased out.”
No equivalencies on animal welfare with EU – WoolProducers
WoolProducers Australia chief executive officer Jo Hall said the body has made our position regarding the EU FTA well known to the government, “being that we will not accept any agreement to equivalencies in standards regarding a number of issues including animal welfare.”
“We expect that the Australian government will continue to advocate for Australian industries and producers, making the point that our production systems and animal husbandry procedures are appropriate to our geographical, production and climatic conditions.
“WoolProducers encourages wool growers to adopt best practice standards in animal husbandry procedures and supports a culture of continual improvement in animal welfare which can be proven with data collected under the Sheep Sustainability Framework,” she said.
“WoolProducers supports the Sheep Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines and will be involved in any revision of the document when that occurs; however, we are strongly opposed to any government intervention to ban mulesing until there is a universally acceptable alternative.
“Any organisation that thinks that setting an arbitrary date to ban the practice will lead to good animal welfare outcomes, doesn’t understand animal welfare, mulesing or the industry.”
A Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry spokesperson said Australia has its own high standards for animal welfare that are appropriate to the country’s systems.
“We have been working with the EU on appropriate provisions on cooperation and information sharing.”