Panel named for animal welfare review

Panel named for animal welfare review


Politics
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The State government has announced a "highly skilled and independent panel" to oversee a public review of the operation and effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act 2002, but the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) is not happy with its make up.

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THE State government has announced a "highly skilled and independent panel" to oversee a public review of the operation and effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act 2002, but the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) is not happy with its make up.

The independent review panel will be chaired by WA barrister and regulatory law specialist Linda Black, who has professional experience in animal welfare.

Other panel members are The University of WA academic Dr Dominique Blache, co-founder of Vets Against Live Export Dr Dianne Evans, former chief executive officer of the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association (KPCA) and former WA Rural Woman of the Year Catherine Marriott and veterinarian Dr David Marshall, who will "provide a high level of animal welfare and industry experience", State Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.

PGA president Tony Seabrook said his organistaion was "deeply concerned and disappointed" by the "academic" focus of the panel and would have liked to have seen more industry representatives included, with "hands on" experience in feedlots and the transport of livestock.

"It lacks the balance that actual active people that handle livestock on a daily basis would bring," Mr Seabrook said.

He said producers were battling in a ferociously competitive market and the industry needed to "push back" against regulations that would make them uncompetitive.

"We are really concerned what the recommendations of the panel will look like."

Ms MacTiernan said an effective and modern animal welfare system was "absolutely critical to ongoing community support for our livestock industries and a wide variety of views must shape the evaluation of this highly complex matter".

"It is also important to update welfare standards for companion animals," she said.

"The independent panel will be well placed to deliver on this important task and I'm confident Linda Black's expertise and commitment will be invaluable in guiding the transparent review process.

"The review will involve extensive stakeholder and community engagement and will report back to government in 12 months,'' she said.

"It is vital the act is effective and enforceable, leading to modern animal welfare outcomes supported by a reliable compliance system."

WAFarmers chief executive officer Trevor Whittington said his organisation supported the review panel, which "has a good spread of legal, scientific, veterinary, animal welfare and industry experience".

"We are confident it has not been politicised which is important for industry support," Mr Whittington said.

"But WAFarmers expects that farmers and industry vets are consulted on the workability of the panels views before they are finalised.

"The laws are dated and in need of review, but WAFarmers is concerned that the move to adopt national standards which are out of step with livestock systems, could be detrimental to WA farmers.

"Key outcomes are to ensure that modern day farming practises are allowed under the laws and that the way the department regulates the industry is not intrusive to normal, everyday operations.

"What we don't want to see is the review come up with a whole series of new laws that can be interpreted by bureaucrats to shut down existing operations, such as feedlots."

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development will support the review and provide and source legal, scientific, compliance and policy expertise to the panel.

To support the work of the panel, Murdoch University's School of Veterinary and Life Sciences is carrying out an independent comparison of animal welfare laws and policies in selected Australian and overseas jurisdictions.

KPCA chairman David Stoate said his organisation "welcomes the opportunity to work with the review panel and understand more about the Terms of Reference for the review".

Mr Stoate said the industry was "still awaiting the release of draft regulations for consultation following on from the 2018 Animal Welfare Act Amendment Bill passing through Parliament at the end of 2018".

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