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Australian Cattle Council : Yearbook 2009
CA TTLE COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA YEARBOOK 2009 Sound Animal Welfare AN INTRINSIC VALUE Each one of us is born with a deep sense of what is ‘good’; for multiple reasons this dissipates in some individuals over time but for the vast majority it remains. C are of animals is part of being good. Cattle producers know this. Their financial success and value systems depend on it. Formal edicts relating to good animal welfare practices have been around since the great Indian emperor, Ashoka. Because of his belief in non-violence and care for all things, he banned animal sacrificing and created dispensaries for birds and animals throughout his kingdom. Ashoka the Great lived from 273BC to 232BC. In spite of humankind’s history, or maybe because of it, we are still struggling to convince doubters that our industry’s animal-welfare credentials are in excellent shape. While there are careless operators around they are thankfully few and far between; Cattle Council continues to support punitive action when appropriate. But what of the vast majority of operators who would prefer to display their outstanding credentials? When approached from the producers’ viewpoint, the most community enlightening form of display is via quality assurance (QA) schemes. Proven compliance with such schemes is vastly superior to simple compliance with law. Along with other representative bodies of the red-meat and livestock industry, Cattle Council is steering policy towards the creation of animal welfare ‘modules’ within existing QA programs and the widespread recognition and acceptance of relevant logos for displaying compliance. A necessary link in this process is the writing and adoption of animal welfare standards for growing, handling and transporting of livestock. In his article for the 2008 Yearbook, Cattle Council’s Policy Director, Jed Matz, gave a brief description of the process industry and governments were going through in the joint development of Transport Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Animals. 24 As an update, these are effectively finalised, with the last step being acceptance by agricultural ministers from the States and Territories; while the Guidelines will remain just that, the Standards will be referenced in law in every jurisdiction of the country by March 2010. A second wave of Standards and Guidelines development is now well underway: those covering the management of individual species; each is involving substantial levels of consultation with industry under the auspices of Animal Health Australia. Professor Ivan Caple is chairing the groups formed for the essential tasks of drafting the documents for the cattle and sheep sectors and then clearing the final for wider distribution to, and comments from, industry before being passed through the political process. Again, once this process is finalised the Standards will be ensconced in State/Territory legislation while the Guidelines will offer producers an added layer of guidance and the community additional comfort. Early progress by the Writing Group charged with drafting the Cattle Standards and Guidelines has been encouraging; nevertheless, hurdles are expected. It is well understood that the rangeland (‘northern’) beef and cattle production system differs markedly from that of other grass-fed (‘southern’) producers. This makes the drafting of a single set of ‘rules’ to cover the whole country difficult if not impractical. Typical examples here involve fire branding (compulsory in some jurisdictions, unused in others), castration (older calves under rangeland conditions where mustering dictates opportunities) and spaying (essential in rangeland areas, rarely used elsewhere). Assuming these and other challenges are met through the drafting process, industry will have a full set of Standards (legislated) and Guidelines (voluntary) at its disposal. It will then be time to couple voluntary Guideline uptake to QA programs such as Livestock Production Assurance QA. Justin Toohey Animal Health and Welfare Adviser Cattle Council of Australia 1117_CCA Yearbook 2009.indd 24 5/5/09 8:46:43 PM