STATE Government animal welfare inspectors have sat down for the first time with an entire livestock industry sector to discuss the contentious issue of livestock abuse, prosecution and legislation.
Two animal welfare inspectors from the Department of Local Government participated in the Livestock Transporters Associa-tion and Country Bulk Carriers (LTACBC) 27th annual confe-rence in Busselton last week.
Animal welfare general inspe-ctors Brian McAuliffe and Dar-relle May were the focal point in dialogue that has been at the fore-front of LTACBC concerns and the livestock industry in general.
The livestock industries, parti-cularly transporters, have not hidden their animosity towards animal welfare inspectors in recent years.
The emergence of radical animal rights groups and incre-ased claims of animal welfare abuse has left many truck opera-tors apprehensive towards inspe-ctors and in some cases critical towards their handling of claims.
But Mr McAuliffe said the reaction from livestock trans-porters last week had been posi-tive and encouraging.
He said about 98pc of trans-porters did the right thing in terms of animal welfare.
The inspectors highlighted issues of un-muzzled dogs biting livestock and overzealous use of electric prods or goat hooks as the most common claims investigated.
³You have to have good dialogue and that¹s how a lot of these issues get sorted out,² Mr McAuliffe said.
The inspectors said they did have instances where some com-munity members made claims but had no knowledge of the workings of the livestock industry and this had to be explained to them.
LTACBC president Grant Robins is also hailing last week¹s discussion with inspectors as extremely positive and beneficial.
Livestock transporters have already expressed a desire to liaise further with inspectors.
But Mr Robins said many transporters still had an issue with the amount of time it took inspec-tors to conduct an investigation into alleged breeches.
³We would like to see them come to the truck operator first,² Mr Robbins said.
Current investigations do not involve interviewing the truck driver or owner until last, which could be up to six months after the animal welfare claim was made.
³By speeding that up we can try and clear the facts up a lot earlier,² Mr Robins said.
He also called for greater livestock welfare awareness on-farm.
Many truck operators said they often relied on the honesty of farmers when it came to draining livestock and loading only healthy livestock.
Mr Robins said in some cases it was unfair truck operators had claims against them that may have stemmed from on-farm issues.