VICTORIAN farmers will go to war over Andrews Labor Government plans to establish a dedicated public sector group for farm and companion animals called Animal Welfare Victoria.
The government yesterday said it was taking action to deliver more support for animal welfare by establishing Animal Welfare Victoria, to bring together all aspects of domestic animal and animal welfare research, policy, education and compliance.
AWV will be overseen by the Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development, Jaala Pulford, and will see animal welfare officers continue to operate through the RSPCA, Agriculture Victoria and local government.
The government also announced a review the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in close consultation with key stakeholders and the Victorian community, to replace it with a modern animal welfare act in 2019.
To support the delivery of these changes, the Labor Government’s Ambassador for Animal Welfare, Lizzie Blandthorn, will lead stakeholder engagement in the development of a new Animal Welfare Action Plan.
The new act will recognise the sentience of animals, reflecting the strong evidence that exists showing animals fear and feel pain. This will ensure animal welfare management and legislation in Victoria develops to meet community expectations, the government said.
However, the Victorian Farmers Federation is concerned the animal welfare changes are sidelining the Livestock Industry Consultative Committee (LICC), through which the agricultural animal industries engaged with Agriculture Victoria and the State Government on animal welfare.
The LICC consists of representatives from all farm animal industries, processors, transporters, saleyards, agents and regulators including Agriculture Victoria, PrimeSafe and Dairy Food Safe Victoria and is chaired by the Chief Veterinarian Officer of Victoria Dr Charles Milne.
VFF president David Jochinke said Victoria’s farm animal industries already adhere to QA programs.
“These programs involve extension, education and include monitoring and enforcement through commercial incentives and supplier obligations.
“These industry activities are complementary to the regulatory controls and meet community and international expectations,” he said.
“We reflect Australia’s position as a leader in modern, sustainable and scientifically based welfare practices”.
Mr Jochinke said the State Government announcement yesterday to establish Animal Welfare Victoria will simply add more cost and more bureaucracy to a system that is already working.
VFF Livestock Group president Leonard Vallence said the federation had no problem with a necessary review of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, but the industry was “going to war” over the creation of AWV to roll companion and farm animals “into one” and the involvement of Ms Blandthorn.
“It’s the left wind wagging the industry’s tail.
“We’re not going to put up with vegan and animal rights groups telling us how to farm.
The State Government said Animal Welfare Victoria is expected to be up and running by February 2018 and would deliver $500,000 in animal welfare grants to non-profit community organisations within its first year of operation.
The Government will also commit to publishing an annual Animal Welfare report by Animal Welfare Victoria that outlines achievements, challenges and actions regarding better animal welfare outcomes in Victoria.
These reforms build on the work of the Andrews Labor Government to end puppy farming, release the draft Animal Welfare Action Plan for community consultation, establish the role of the ambassador for animal welfare and provide additional funding to the RSPCA to improve domestic animal enforcement and compliance.
Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford said all Victorians are committed to good animal welfare.
“We are working to deliver more effective and efficient animal welfare laws.
“Whether it’s in our industries, in our communities, in our homes or in the wild, the community rightly expects we do the right thing by animals,” she said.
“Animal Welfare Victoria will ensure that wherever animals are, their well-being and welfare is a priority.”
Mr Jochinke said unfortunately the RSPCA has walked away from the LICC committee and it now appeared the State Government is bowing to an activist agenda by establishing an entity that places all animals under the one umbrella.
“Animal industries need to remain separated in order to achieve the best welfare outcomes”.
“We look forward to meeting Minister Pulford to discuss the future of animal welfare in Victoria”.
The VFF is calling for further investment into LICC to generate scientific research that underpins legislation and protects access to overseas markets and reinforces Australia’s international leadership in farm animal welfare.