Animal welfare in Australia is set to take a great leap forward and meet changing community expectations through the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS).
While at the 7th AAWS National Workshop held on the Gold Coast on July 30-31, 2013, participants charted a roadmap for ongoing improvements in animal welfare, which builds on the foundations AAWS has set as the most extensive collaboration of animal-related organisations in the country.
More than 125 delegates from around Australia attended the workshop, representing animal production, pets and companion animal organisations, animal welfare advocacy groups, research organisations, sport and entertainment groups, the education sector, veterinarians, and Commonwealth, State and local governments.
Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Joel Fitzgibbon emphasised the value AAWS has provided the Australian community in delivering sustainable improvements in animal welfare during his opening address.
Mr Fitzgibbon thanked the AAWS working groups for their significant contribution to advancing animal welfare, often through financial and in-kind support; or by donating their time and working in a voluntary capacity on AAWS projects.
Mr Fitzgibbon took the opportunity to announce the creation of a new position of Independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports to review and audit Australia’s live animal export supply chain to strengthen Australia’s live animal welfare assurance system. The independent, statutory office holder will report directly to the minister.
“Australia has the strongest animal welfare assurance system in the world and we are the only country that requires specific animal welfare conditions are met for exported livestock,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“The Independent Inspector-General will audit and review the live animal export regulator across the supply chain, including our investigation and compliance procedures, adding an important layer of independence to the regulatory system to ensure it delivers animal welfare outcomes.”
The Inspector-General will also be responsible for reviewing the progress of the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AusAWAC) and the national Animal Welfare Committee against their workplans.
The workshop also took stock of AAWS’s achievements over the last 12 months and generated new ideas for future activities, including long-term strategic planning.
“The achievements of AAWS over the past year have been significant,” AusAWAC Chairman Dr Gardner Murray said.
“AAWS has delivered tangible improvements in animal welfare on a number of fronts, including through educational activities, such as training videos for livestock handlers or by on-the-ground work in remote indigenous communities to train new animal management workers and improve dog and community health.
“The AAWS has also contributed to national planning for animals in natural disasters in conjunction with WSPA and the effect of humans on zoo animals.”
AAWS’s international influence and Australia’s role as a global leader in animal welfare was also highlighted by the keynote speaker, Dr Abdul Rahman, chair of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Permanent Animal Welfare Working Group and President of the Commonwealth Veterinary Association.
He complimented Australia for its initiative and leadership.
In mapping the future direction of the AAWS, participants considered four pieces of strategic work: the development of a State of the Nation report into animal welfare standards; monitoring and evaluation of animal welfare activities; how to enhance collaboration between animal welfare stakeholders; and measuring the impact of AAWS communication activities on stakeholder and community attitudes.
“AusAWAC will now consider the substantial feedback provided by our AAWS working group members, including progressing concepts, such as ‘one welfare’, which encapsulates animal welfare, health and biosecurity, and human health and well-being within a shared ecosystem,” Dr Murray said.
“Their feedback has also been invaluable in determining how best to progress these strategic projects and develop a roadmap for improving animal welfare in the years ahead.
“Over the last six years AAWS has supported more than 50 projects which have achieved a great deal in improving animal welfare.
“As we move ahead AAWS intends to amplify its communications to improve awareness and adoption by the general public of these animal welfare developments and assist in people making ethical decisions about animals based on knowledge and information.”