Why national leadership on animal welfare should be a priority for the next Australian Government

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In the lead up to the 2019 Federal election, we’re calling for animal welfare to be a priority for the next Australian Government. The RSPCA has identified three priority areas that need immediate action. The first is a renewed national position of leadership on animal welfare.

For animals to be protected, national leadership on animal welfare is critical to ensure there is continuous improvement, coordination and consistency across states and territories. Sadly, in Australia this leadership and focus is lacking.

What is the current state of play?

In 2013, the Australian Government withdrew funding for the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy, removed the Animal Welfare branch within the Department of Agriculture, and dissolved advisory committees that provided independent advice to the Government.

In 2014, the Animal Protection Index gave Australia a ‘C’ grading alongside India and Brazil, Malaysia and the Philippines. This index ranks countries around the globe according to their standards, legislation and policy commitments as well as efforts to educate and communicate about the importance of protecting animals.

In 2016, the RSPCA, alongside all major animal protection groups, the Australian Veterinary Association, and representative organisations from a range of animal industries wrote to the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister calling for the Australian Government to re-establish its leadership role in animal welfare.

The 2016 Productivity Commission report on the regulation of Australian agriculture recommended the establishment of a national independent animal welfare commission to coordinate the development of national standards and to provide a source of excellence in animal welfare policy advice.

In 2018, a review by Phillip Moss AM found that the Department of Agriculture struggled to balance its competing roles of promoting the live export trade and protecting animal welfare, and that the cuts made to animal welfare services in 2013 contributed to a culture that neglected animal welfare responsibilities.

Why is this an issue for the federal government?

Achieving consistency in animal welfare standards within a federated system of government requires national leadership and coordination.

The Australian Government is responsible for providing representation to international forums on animal welfare and for improving the nation’s international standing.

What is the way forward?

1. The Australian Government must reinstate its leadership role in animal welfare and dedicate resources to a new national framework, which includes the establishment of an independent statutory body dedicated to animal welfare.

2. The framework must be one that facilitates expert input and advice to government from a broad range of perspectives, seeks to harmonise animal welfare standards across jurisdictions, and coordinates research funding to improve animal welfare outcomes.

3. Government departments responsible for developing animal welfare policy must be independent of conflicting institutional objectives and appropriately resourced and staffed with personnel who have expertise in animal welfare.

Where do candidates in your electorate stand on animal welfare?

As we get closer to the election, we’re asking supporters to reach out to their current federal members and senators, to ask them where they stand on animal welfare. You can use our handy contact form here, and take action today!