Lamb Production

Victoria’s draft animal welfare action plan puts livestock producers offside

Terry Sim, September 12, 2016

Vic Animal Welfare Action Plan cover image Sept 12-16A DRAFT animal welfare action plan released yesterday is not yet supported by the Victorian Farmers Federation due to a lack of separation between production and companion animals.

The Andrews Labor Government is inviting Victorians to have their say on improving animal welfare after releasing the draft animal welfare action plan 2016-2021 – ‘Improving the Welfare of Animals in Victoria’.

Member for Pascoe Vale, Lizzie Blandthorn, has been appointed by Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford as the Ambassador for Animal Welfare to lead the conversation – collaborating with the community, animal industries and welfare groups.

The draft plan has been developed with the assistance of the expert Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, a group of animal industry and welfare specialists with a broad range of experience and knowledge.

However late last year, then VFF Livestock Group president Ian Feldtmann said the State government appointed advisory committee lacked extensive livestock industry experience, and was too heavily weighted to “animal rights”. See the earlier Sheep Central story here. Click here to get Sheep Central story links sent to your email inbox.

Current VFF Livestock Group president Leonard Vallance said the federation did not support the draft action plan in its current form due to the lack of separation of companion and production animals. The VFF is due to discuss the draft plan with the government next week.

“Our view is that production animals should always be separate from companion animals in the Act and there should also be a separation from sporting animals – greyhounds and racehorses, because there are different expectations as to how companion and production animals are treated.

“That’s the serious concern.”

Mr Vallance said the draft action plan was “the product” of the lack of VFF livestock representation on the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

“There are animal activists on that committee, they are not animal welfare people, and that’s not good.”

Mr Vallance said the VFF was concerned that the draft action plan would lead to the regulation of farm animal practices such as tail-docking, surgical castration and mulesing of sheep.

“The industry for years has led the world in research into animal management practices to improve animal welfare outcomes for production animals.

“We have the highest standards in the world.”

He said there was a “threat” that the same standards for companion animals would be applied to farm animals, with practices such as tail-docking banned in dogs.

“This will encroach on our surgical castration, dehorning, ear notching, hoof trimming and mulesing.”

The government’s media release yesterday said meaningful animal welfare reform required a collective approach by government, animal industries and the community that underlined a shared responsibility.

The government is seeking feedback from interested individuals, industry bodies and community groups on the draft plans key priorities of a modern legal framework, education and effective enforcement.

It is proposed that the completed animal welfare action plan will apply broadly including to government, animal industries, professionals, community and industry organisations and individual Victorians. It proposes three key areas for action, each underpinned by animal welfare science and community expectation. The three key areas for action are:

  1. Victoria has contemporary animal welfare laws.
  2. Collaborative approaches underpin knowledge, commitment and investment in animal welfare.
  3. Compliance and enforcement is efficient and effective.

Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford said animal welfare matters.

“Consumers and the community alike have demonstrated that it’s a priority.

“We all have a moral and ethical responsibility, as part of a fair and caring society, to ensure we have high standards of animal welfare.”

Ambassador for Animal Welfare Lizzie Blandthorn said Victorians expect that everyone –government, animal industries, owners and others – do the right thing by animals in their care.

“We all have a shared responsibility to meet these expectations.

“We want to bring a proactive animal welfare agenda to Victoria – it’s not just about the prevention of cruelty to animals.”

An online consultation website has been established to engage directly with the community to strengthen and improve animal welfare.

All Victorians are encouraged to provide feedback. Public consultation closes on Tuesday October 11 2016.

To provide feedback go to or call 136 186.

Sources: Minister for Agriculture, VFF.


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  1. Michael Craig, September 14, 2016

    Some fair points Andy and I shouldn’t vent at the poor old agents. Some are going to be critical to help the industry evolve, but some level of registration wouldn’t go astray.
    The welfare issue for the yards wouldn’t exist if we created a direct transactional model.
    OH&S issues — aren’t they potentially reduced as agents won’t have to get into yards and races to visually confirm the Producer Identification Codes, as is the potential case with our current system? Or is that why our visual mob-based system has struggled to achieve agreed upon compliance rates?

    It is an exciting time to be in our industry. We should work together to make this work.

  2. Andy Madigan, September 13, 2016

    Michael, I think you have missed the point about animal welfare. As far as on-farm benefits go, that can be done now if producers want to use it, electronic ID tags or visual for their genetics, wool and meat. The cattle supply chain 10 years after electronic ID is not delivering value cuts-based pricing as you say sheep will. Anyway that’s another story. Agents concerns for animal welfare and OH&S are real and should not be confused with registration or insurance or what you think our role is and what is in the agents’ thoughts. We are not complaining about electronics, we are raising real issues that all of industry should be questioning and will it work commercially for all.

  3. Glenn Nix, September 13, 2016

    If it is consumers you want to listen to, which ones? The ones that want their money for nothing and their chicks for free? Those who want Rolls Royce quality at a Great Wall price? Those who are not actually consumers, the vegan animal rights activists? You will end up with mental problems if you listen to every whim and pander to the unworkable.

  4. Michael Craig, September 12, 2016

    It appears Andy you are making the assumption that what is good for agents is good for the industry. When 66 percent of sheep that go through Victorian saleyards go direct to slaughter, what does that say about the effective value agents are creating in terms of vertical linkage and reduced animal welfare stress and resulting product loss? Saleyards are an averaging mechanism, based on a ‘guessestimate’, with little information flow and pricing signals back to genetics or on farm management. The high saleyard use is a direct result of agent advice, but it creates unnecessary animal welfare risk and product loss through stress. We need objective carcase measurements to align processing efficiency goals, while also creating consumer value through eating quality measurements. But all of these ideas are not in the agents’ thoughts. Is their business model an enabler of positive change for our industry? Do they have to be registered and how many actually have del credere insurance? Using their advice, shouldn’t we have an auction system on the service they provide and their commission rates?
    You might complain about electronic identification Andy, but in 10 years we will look back and see what happened in Victoria as a major positive change in moving industry to individual carcase hook tracking, value and cuts-based pricing model that aligns goals within the chain — while importantly removing unnecessary transaction costs and barriers between producers and the value creation point, my wife.
    The question is whether the agents’ business model can adapt. Instead we will probably just hear the fear and myth campaign from them, but let’s not forget what they are really trying to protect. Times they are a changing, some agents will help the process, others will push against it because they may actually have to do something. Electronic identification is good for our industry, but only if we can create value through improved price signals about quality and efficiency.

  5. Andy Madigan, September 12, 2016

    The Victorian Government seems intent on not engaging with industry on any rural topic. Now an Animal Welfare Action Plan? How will RFID in saleyards go with this action plan when sheep will have to be handled more and for longer periods in saleyards, then there is the work health and safety for staff as well. Didn’t think this one through and RFID reading in our opinion. This has been an unanswered concern of agents raised with the government many times, still no answers.

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