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Animal Welfare - Recent Reports and Comments

Animal Welfare vol 24 issue 1 Volume 28 
Issue 1
February 2019




Australian review into live animal export

Australia has a significant live animal export trade — during 2018 over 2 million live cattle, sheep, goats and buffalo were exported by air or sea for either breeding purposes or slaughter. However, although live animal export generates substantial revenue for the Australian economy, the export trade is controversial due to a number of tragic animal welfare incidents that have happened over previous years.

In 2017, a high profile incident occurred during which 2,400 sheep died whilst travelling by ship from Fremantle, Australia, to Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. This equated to a 3.76% mortality rate of the 63,804 sheep exported — well over the 2% (now 1%) threshold at which departmental review is required. The majority of sheep were found to have died of heat stress.

This incident triggered the Australian Government to initiate an independent review to be carried out into the regulatory capability, powers, practices and culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as regulator of live animal exports. Under the review terms of reference, it was stated that: “The review will make recommendations on any improvements to regulatory and investigative performance to ensure persons involved in the live export trade are compliant with regulations and maintain high standards of animal welfare, and the department is a trusted regulator of the live animal exports trade.” Ten areas were given for assessment.

Mr Philip Moss, supported by two departmental officers, was selected as the independent external advisor to undertake the review and the review team travelled to Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Views were sought in writing and in person from ministers, departmental staff, regulatory agencies, livestock associations, exporters and exporter associations, animal welfare organisations and veterinary officers, amongst others. The ‘Moss Report’ was published in September 2018.

The Report is structured around the ten areas of assessment given in the original terms of reference and 31 recommendations were made in total. The first recommendation is that a review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) occurs on a regular basis. The ASEL set out basic standards for live animal export from the farm of origin to the country of destination and exporters must comply with the standards to be granted an export licence. A review of the ASEL was due in 2013 but not carried out. It is recommended that the review of the ASEL reflect industry, scientific and regulatory developments and community expectations concerning live animal exports. It is also recommended that the department work with the live animal export industry to develop comprehensive animal welfare indicators relating to every point of the export supply chain and for those indicators to become part of the regulatory framework. Although the ASEL include various measures to assess welfare outcomes (including acceptable mortality levels; untipped horns; heavy animals; lame animals; animals with existing minor health conditions; pregnancy; and risk of heat stress), in practice, mortality is the primary measure used and the Report considers that the “focus on mortality fails to recognise the suffering of animals on the voyage who survive the journey.”

Another significant recommendation is that an Animal Welfare Branch be re-established: to bring greater focus to live animal export; to introduce relevant expertise into the department; and to improve its connection with animal welfare organisations. Additionally, it was recommended that an external, independent Inspector General of Live Animal Exports be enlisted to provide oversight of the department as regulator.

The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Hon David Littleproud, and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources have both responded to the Moss review and either fully support, or support in principle, all of the recommendations. Minister Littleproud has stated that work will begin immediately to establish an animal welfare branch within the Department and that legislative amendments will be brought forward to facilitate the establishment of an Inspector General of Live Animal Exports.

It is hoped that this latest review will lead to improvements in the health and welfare of live animals exported from Australia.

Review of the Regulatory Capability and Culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Regulation of Live Animal Exports (September 2018). A4, 84 pages. Available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/export/moss-review.pdf.

Government Response to the Moss Review (October 2018). A4, 1 page. Available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/export/moss-review-government-response.pdf.

Review of the Regulatory Capability and Culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Regulation of Live Animal Exports: Response of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the Regulator) (2018). A4, 22 pages. Available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/export/moss-review-department-response.pdf.

E Carter,

WSAVA animal welfare guidelines

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) represents more than 200,000 veterinarians across 105 associations. The mission of the WSAVA is: “To advance the health and welfare of companion animals worldwide through an educated, committed and collaborative global community of veterinary peers.”

Recently the WSAVA published: WASVA Animal Welfare Guidelines – for Companion Animal Practitioners and Veterinary Teams. It is hoped that the guidelines will “assist companion animal veterinarians throughout the world in their understanding of contemporary animal welfare concept and science, and provide guidance on addressing potential animal welfare problems, navigating some more common ethical issues, and promoting good animal welfare through effective communication, both within the veterinary clinic and beyond.”

There are six chapters in total: Chapter 1: Animal welfare — recognition and assessment; Chapter 2: Measurement and monitoring of animal welfare; Chapter 3: Welfare needs surrounding the veterinary visit; Chapter 4: Ethical questions and moral issues; Chapter 5: Communication with owners regarding animal welfare; and, Chapter 6: Outreach — welfare beyond your clinic.

Each chapter includes a list of WSAVA recommendations, some background of the topic under discussion, various section(s) providing further information, a set of conclusions and a checklist of suggested actions. For example, Chapter 1 (Animal Welfare — recognition and assessment) describes what the WSAVA considers to be the definition of animal welfare, discuses animal sentience and the science and ethics of animal welfare, and also considers the role of veterinarians and society. The chapter closes with a checklist of eight items including: ‘Are you up to date with scientific advances in understanding and assessing animal welfare?’ ‘Do you have a written animal welfare charter outlining the principles of your clinic’s or association’s commitment to protecting animal welfare?’Does your approach to animal welfare always strive to promote positive welfare states?’

A handy toolkit is included at the back of the guidelines providing links to various useful information resources, for example the AVMA, BVA and IFAW Guidelines on Euthanasia.

WSAVA Animal Welfare Guidelines for Companion Animal Practitioners and Veterinary Teams (2018). A4, 80 pages. Available at: https://www.wsava.org/WSAVA/media/resources/Guidelines/WSAVA-Animal-Welfare-Guidelines-(2018).pdf.

E Carter,

Animal welfare in the EU

The European Union (EU) Animal Welfare Strategy 2012–2015 was published in 2012 and sought to improve the welfare of animals within the EU, whether on farms, in zoos, used for experimental purposes, or kept as pets.

Each Member State is responsible for implementing EU legislation at a national level and the European Commission is, in turn, responsible for ensuring that Member States enact EU rules appropriately. In November 2018, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) published a special report reporting on how the actions of both the Commission and Member States have contributed to achieving EU animal welfare objectives. Specifically, the ECA focused on the welfare of farm animals with respect to two actions originally detailed in the strategy: 1) Develop tools, including where relevant implementing plans, to strengthen Member States’ compliance; and 2) Optimise synergistic effects from current Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) (the CAP facilitates improvements in animal welfare through cross-compliance whereby a number of CAP payments made to farmers are linked to meeting minimum standards of animal welfare).

The ECA visited five Member States (Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Romania) between September 2017 and June 2018. The auditors looked at how animal welfare legislation was implemented and examined official inspections for the period from 2012 to early 2018.

The auditors considered that, generally, good progress had been made in improving animal welfare on-farm with regards to the group housing of sows (individual stalls were banned in 2013) and banning unenriched cages for laying hens (implemented in 2012). However, compliance was poor on-farm in relation to the routine tail-docking of pigs. There were also concerns over the welfare of animals during transport (especially long-distance transport and the transport of unfit animals) and at slaughter (the use of the derogation for slaughter without stunning and inadequate stunning procedures). The auditors concluded that: “there are still some significant discrepancies between the animal welfare standards established in the EU legislation and the reality on the ground.”

Overall, the ECA made a number of recommendations under four main headings: ‘Strategic framework for the Commission’s animal welfare policy’; ‘Commission’s enforcement and guidance in the area of compliance’; ‘Improve co-ordination between official inspections and cross-compliance’; and ‘Using rural development support to achieve animal welfare objectives.’

The response of the European Commission to the Special Report of the European Court of Auditors is included at the back of the report.

Animal Welfare in the EU: Closing the Gap Between Ambitious Goals and Practical Implementation (Pursuant to Article 287(4), Second Subparagraph, TFEU) (2018). A4, 68 pages. Special Report No. 31, European Court of Auditors. Available: https://www.eca.europa.eu/Lists/ECADocuments/SR18_31/SR_ANIMAL_WELFARE_EN.pdf.

E Carter,

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