Cessation of animal welfare assistance in destination countries and Australian Animal Welfare Strategy

Budget Review 2014–15 Index

Rob Dossor

Cessation of the Improved Animal Welfare Programme

The 2014–15 Budget achieves a saving of $2.3 million over 2014–15 by ceasing the Live Animal Exports – Business Assistance – Improved Supply Chains and Official Development Assistance (Improved Animal Welfare Programme) one year early on 30 June 2014.[1] This program was introduced in the 2011–12 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook in conjunction with support to eligible businesses which were affected by the temporary suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia.[2]

The Improved Animal Welfare Programme offered aid funding to support improved animal welfare outcomes in countries which are eligible for Official Development Assistance and which import live animals from Australia.[3] Under this programme the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has been engaged to develop and deliver training on OIE animal welfare standards.[4] The funding for the Improved Animal Welfare Programme was initially drawn from the Official Development Assistance budget.

Response to the ceasing of the Improved Animal Welfare Programme

The RSPCA in April called on the Minister for Agriculture to abandon plans to scrap or change the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).[5] While the Budget does not scrap or change the ESCAS framework, it does cease aid designed to improve destination countries ability to meet ESCAS standards.

Improved Animal Welfare Programme background

The Improved Animal Welfare Programme was established by the Australian Government to assist eligible countries which imported livestock from Australia in their implementation of the ESCAS.[6] The ESCAS was introduced in response to an ABC Four Corners program on 30 May 2011 which exposed horrific scenes of cruelty to Australian cattle while being slaughtered in Indonesian abattoirs, resulting in a vociferous response from the public.[7]

According to the Department of Agriculture, the ESCAS is based on four principles:

  • animal welfare: animal handling and slaughter in the importing country conform to OIE animal welfare recommendations[8]
  • control through the supply chain: the exporter has control of all supply chain arrangements for livestock transport, management and slaughter. All livestock remain in the supply chain
  • traceability through the supply chain: the exporter can race all livestock through the supply chain, and
  • independent audit: the supply chain in the importing country is independently audited.[9]

The Improved Animal Welfare Programme was designed to achieve these principles. Countries which were eligible for assistance were: Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Mauritius.[10]

Cessation of Australian Animal Welfare Strategy

The Budget will also achieve a saving of $3.3 million over three years by ceasing the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) from 1 July 2014.[11] In November 2013 the Government froze new programmes under the AAWS and announced its intention of disbanding the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AusAWAC – an advisory group comprising representatives of the livestock industries, researchers, veterinarians and animal welfare advocates who provided consensus advice to Government on welfare policy).[12] The Government also announced that the responsibility for the AAWS (which formerly resided with AusAWAC) would be taken up by the Department of Agriculture.[13] The Budget formally ceases the AAWS.

Response from animal welfare groups

The Animal Welfare League Australia (AWLA) was disappointed by the decision to end the AAWS. They claimed ‘the loss of the AAWS is a backward step which will affect animals’ lives. The strategy was a well-structured, long term approach to having a balanced debate on animal welfare issues and delivering practical improvements to the care and management of animals.’[14] They also claimed that ‘the cost of AAWS was 1.1 million dollars but its real worth was more like tens of millions, given the huge amount of pro bono and in-kind support the working groups provided to their projects.’[15]

AAWC background

The AAWS was intended to provide a national framework to identify priorities, coordinate stakeholder action and improve consistency across all animal use sectors.[16] The AAWS seeks to build on Australia’s current arrangements, including state and territory legislation, standards, guidelines, codes of practice, industry quality assurance programs, education and training, and research and development.[17]

The goals of the AAWS are:

  • Animals – The welfare needs of animals are understood and met
  • National Systems – National systems deliver consistent animal welfare outcomes and give priority to ongoing improvements
  • People – People make ethical decisions regarding animal welfare, supported by knowledge and skills, and
  • International – Australia is actively engaged in international partnerships and developments to improve animal welfare.[18]

[1].           Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2014–15, 2014, p. 52  accessed 19 May 2014

[2].           Australian Government, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook: 2011–12, 2011, pp. 198–199, accessed 16 May 2014.

[3].           Australian Government, ‘Assistance’, Australian Government Action on Live Exports website, accessed 16 May 2014.

[4].           Department of Agriculture (DA), ‘Mark Schipp’, YouTube transcript, DA website, accessed 16 May 2014.

[5].           RSPCA, ‘RSPCA urges Joyce not to turn his back on animal welfare’, RSPCA website, accessed 20 May 2014.

[6].           Regional Animal Welfare Strategy, ‘Australia’s new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance program (ESCAS)RAWS-News July 2012, p. 2, accessed 16 May 2014.

[7].           M Coombs and H Gobbett, ‘Live animal exports’ in Briefing Book: Key Issues for the 44th Parliament, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2013, p. 39, accessed 16 May 2014.

[8].           OIE Animal Welfare recommendations can be found here: World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), ‘Terrestrial Animal Health Code: Section 7, Animal Welfare’, OIE website, accessed 19 May 2014.

[9].           Department of Agriculture (DA), ‘Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS): Overview’, DA website, accessed 19 May 2014.

[10].         Australian Government, ‘Assistance’, op. cit.

[11].         Budget measures: budget paper no. 2, op. cit., p. 51.

[12].         A Vidot, ‘Welfare grants frozen as government chases savings’, ABC News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), 15 November 2013, accessed 20 May 2014.

[13].         Ibid.

[14].         Animal Welfare League Australia (AWLA), ‘Animals let down by budget cuts’, AWLA website, accessed 20 May 2014.

[15].         Ibid.

[16].         Department of Agriculture (DA), ‘Australian Animal Welfare Strategy’, DA website, accessed 20 May 2014.

[17].         Ibid.

[18].         Ibid.


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