Why animal welfare in Australia is such a mess and the need for an Independent Office of Animal Welfare

Dec 1 2012

Have you ever wondered why animal welfare in Australia is in such a mess? 

At last, someone with expert knowledge, has written  a Paper (download below)  that explains in detail all the angles in the twisted mess that is Australian Animal Welfare. The Paper explains the history, the players ( = uncoordinated government departments and commercial  industry vested interests), the structure, the processes….and why in its current form it will never work……. (was it ever intended to?)

The author recommends the creation of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, completely separate to the current structures, together with the legal processes that would be required to create this entity.

It’s a long document, so I have extracted sections to create a “summary” for you; you can download the entire document at the end of the summary.

The author is Jed Goodfellow:  PhD candidate within the Legal Governance Concentration of Research Excellence, Macquarie University Law School, and part-time policy officer for RSPCA Australia.  Jed was previously Legal Council for RSPCA South Australia.

Please note that the document attached is a draft version.

Summary (by Deathrowpets, extracted text from the Paper)

“This paper reviews the arrangements for animal welfare regulation in Australia with a view to identifying the problems associated with the current regulatory framework. 

A number of governance and procedural problems are identified.  The primary flaw suggested  concerns the subordination of the regulatory framework to governmental institutions which possess a fundamental conflict of interest.

The paper argues that this conflict of interest forms the catalyst for a chain of subsequent problems including, industry domination of the standard-setting processes, industry control over the development of animal welfare science, the disparity between animal welfare policy and law, and unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies in the use of available resources.

 It is argued that these problems lead to a system of governance and regulation that lacks legitimacy, in which structures and processes breach fundamental principles of procedural fairness and equality in democratic participation.  

In turn, these deficiencies prevent government from serving the public interest in delivering adequate animal welfare outcomes such as sustained improvements in animal welfare standards.  The paper also finds that the current framework is failing to serve the interests of industry. By insulating industry from objective scrutiny and allowing the status quo to continue despite community expectations moving forward, a growing disconnect between public expectations and industry practices emerges.

 No existing government department deals completely with the wide-ranging suite of matters which concern issues of animal welfare.

Currently, different government departments will be involved to varying degrees in specific animal welfare issues which are incidentally relevant to their core areas of responsibility.

The welfare of animals used in research for instance falls under the responsibility of the National Health and Medical Research Council (from a standard-setting perspective). The treatment of wild animals subject to culls will generally fall under the responsibility of state departments of environment, and may also be subject to Commonwealth oversight if such culls form part of a wildlife trade management plan.  State departments responsible for sport and racing will generally have involvement in welfare standards for race horses and greyhounds. The overarching and residual responsibility for the animal welfare, however (including of course farm animal welfare), belongs to SCoPI and the departments of agriculture. 

This fragmented approach to animal welfare may provide one explanation for the significant inconsistencies in the levels of protection afforded to different species of animals, or even the same species of animals but in different contexts of use.

 The current arrangements for animal welfare regulation do not represent an efficient and effective use of public funds.

The current arrangements result in unnecessary complexity and duplication resulting in an inefficient use of available resources. The current arrangements  fail to serve the public interest in delivering independent and objective animal welfare science, and substantive laws which reflect government policy and community expectations.

The multidisciplinary nature and complexities of animal welfare policy, and its wide-ranging application to a large variety of circumstances that cut across multiple departmental jurisdictions calls for the establishment of a dedicated office of animal welfare.

The proposed Office will represent a more efficient and effective use of public funds. 

The only option for addressing the fundamental conflict of interest is to remove the responsibility for animal welfare regulation from the remit of SCoPI  (=COAG Standing Council of Primary Industries) and the departments of agriculture. 

Agricultural ministers and their associated departments perform an important role in serving the agricultural sector and rural communities. Promoting productive and profitable primary industries is a fundamental component of this service.  This of course should not change.  The reality, however, is that this objective conflicts with the objective of promoting and protecting animal welfare, particularly in relation to farm animals. “

Download Paper here…   This version with highlighted text and notes by Deathrowpets

Download Paper here…   This version,  as original received

(..be patient in downloading , as may take a few minutes)

Further notes; on page 5 of the Paper, the author lists the current members of the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. This committee overseas the implementation of the Aus Animal Welfare Strategy (which seemingly doesn’t work anyway…). From their website, here are some notes on who these people are:

Download notes on AWAC membership here….

Call me cynical, but you will see that about half are vets ( commercial vested interests?  Nah…) and the other half farmers (commercial vested interests?? Nah again) . Read the notes and draw your own conclusions…….