VICTORIAN farmers are keen to see one of their own head up the state’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
The Andrews Labor Government today called for expressions of interest for the role of chairperson of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, after current chair Carmel Morfuni’s decision to step down.
The AWAC is a non-statutory committee that provides the Minister for Agriculture with independent and expert advice on significant animal welfare issues in Victoria.
The State Government said Ms Morfuni has decided to step down from the committee in September following 12 years of dedicated service. She led the committee through a significant period of change as it was reformed into an expertise-based committee, the government said.
However, in 2015 when the current committee was formed, the Victorian Farmers Federation protested that the committee was lacked extensive livestock industry experience, and is too heavily weighted to “animal rights”. The VFF said the appointment of Glenys Oogjes, executive director of Animals Australia, was its biggest concern.
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VFF president David Jochinke said the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee needs to be chaired by someone with suitable experience, and who is engaged with intensive farming systems.
“Our intensive industries will be a big focus over the next 12 to 18 months, so the committee will benefit from the knowledge of someone involved in those industries who can ensure a balanced committee discussion as well as bring their own experience to the role.”
VFF Livestock Group president Leonard Vallance said the VFF would be very keen to have a farmer at the head of the committee, preferably from the intensive animal industry sectors – pork, chickens or dairy.
“The intensive animal industries are under enormous pressure from all aspects, including environment and urban spread, while the extensive industries were pretty right at the moment, whereas the chicken, dairy and pig industries had some way to go.
“There needs to be good guidance from the AWAC to the government on how to go about that.”
The committee’s members currently include:
Mrs Carmel Morfuni (independent chair) – Barrister at Law, nationally accredited mediator.
Dr David Beggs – veterinarian with livestock, animal science and public policy expertise.
Ms Glenys Oogjes – extensive animal welfare, behaviour and science expertise, Executive Director of Animals Australia.
Prof Paul Hemsworth – prominent animal welfare scientist, director and professor of the Animal Welfare Science Centre.
Dr Michelle Ledger – veterinarian with equine and animal ethics expertise, Veterinary Services and Equine Welfare Manager at Racing Victoria.
Dr Patricia Mitchell – agricultural scientist with commercial animal industries and livestock expertise, Research & Innovation Manager at Australian Pork Limited.
Dr Elizabeth Walker – veterinarian with animal welfare and domestic animal expertise, Chief Executive Officer of RSPCA Victoria.
Dr Rebecca Wilcox – veterinarian with wildlife and animal science and research expertise, Senior Animal Welfare Officer at RMIT.
Dr Scott Williams – private veterinary consultant with livestock and research expertise.
Animal Welfare Action Plan due later this year
The Victorian Government said the AWAC has been a significant contributor to the development of the draft Animal Welfare Action Plan, which will be delivered later this year once community and stakeholder feedback is considered.
As well as providing the Minister with strategic advice, the AWAC assists the Minister and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs Transport and Resources in reviewing legislation and regulations, and improving the effectiveness of animal welfare policies.
The State Government said animal welfare is a priority, which is why it is actively seeking a high-quality candidate for this important position.
Those with demonstrated governance skills, knowledge of animal, agricultural or veterinary science and public policy, and previous experience as a board chair, are encouraged to apply, it said.
Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford thanked Ms Morfuni for her service to the committee and to the welfare of Victoria’s animals.
“If you have the skills, experience and passion to lead this important committee and make a difference, I encourage you to put your name forward.”
Member for Pascoe Vale and Ambassador for Animal Welfare Lizzie Blandthorn said the Victorian Government takes animal welfare seriously, because its members know it matters to all Victorians.
“Our Animal Welfare Advisory Committee provides valuable expert advice to improve the welfare of animals across the state.”
Details on applying for Chairperson of AWAC are available on the Government’s recruiting website ‘Get on Board’ at vic.gov.au/get-on-board
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