Is animal welfare underfunded in Australia?

24 May 2016

Written by: Katherine McLeod

Katherine McLeod writes that a recent report suggests Australia has a lot of work to do in their treatment of animals.

Animal welfare is substantially under resourced and underfunded in Australia, according to the World Animal Protection report of 2016.

World Animal Protection is a global leader amongst animal welfare organisations. It operates in over 50 countries worldwide and partners with local communities, businesses and governments to make positive changes in the lives of animals.

Their 2016 report details Australia’s practices in the way in which animals are treated, as well as suggesting methods for improvement.

The report begins by stating that Australia falls short on practicing the protection of animals, due to a lack of leadership and intervention from national frameworks and not enough funding being put towards animal protection.

The main findings of the report state that Australia’s current national frameworks for animal welfare and their enforcement do not meet expectations from communities and international practices.

Australia is currently ranked in the C grade category on the Animal Protection Index, trailing other western nations like Austria, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The occurrence of serious animal welfare incidents over recent years serves to highlight the failure of the current system that is in place to protect animals, the report suggests.

There is currently no Australian government leadership or funding dedicated to furthering animal welfare in Australia; responsibility for domestic animal welfare is devolved to the states and territories.

However, the Department of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says that the government is committed to their protection.

“The Australian Government takes the welfare of all animals, including farm animals, very seriously… for example, the Australian Government has a strong role and international reputation for regulating live animal exports,” Mr Joyce’s department tells upstart.

“We are committed to continuing to deliver animal welfare outcomes in line with Australians’ expectations.”

The World Animal Protection recommends an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, a model that would most efficiently and effectively achieve improvements towards the treatment of animals in Australia.

The Australian government funding for a national framework through the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy ceased in 2013 and consequently the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was dispersed.

The Animal Welfare Committee met a similar fate. These groups were well supported by both stakeholders and the public, and had been on their way to providing strong national frameworks.

“Each state and territory government is responsible for animal welfare laws and their enforcement and, along with industry, need to be the driving force on animal welfare standards and reforms,” Mr. Joyce’s department says.

“The Australian Government’s primary role in animal welfare is at the international level where Australia plays an active role, engaging with organisations like the World Organisation for Animal Health to ensure any international standards that are developed are consistent with Australia’s interests.

“However, the Australian Government has no legislative responsibility for the welfare of animals within Australia.”

Leading animal protection organisations including World Animal Protection, RSPCA and Animals Australia are actively encouraging the formation of a national framework for animal welfare.

“The RSPCA supports the work of WAP to prevent cruelty to animals and relieve animal suffering around the world. Therefore, we welcome the report content,” Natalie Filmer, RSPCA Victoria’s Acting Media Advisor tells upstart.

According to the World Animal Protection report, implementing a national framework would mean achieving a balance between both commercial and community interests, provide regulatory rules across states and territories on the enforcement of treatments, and finally allow Australia to be internationally recognised for good practices in animal welfare.

The Australian government has currently not given any indication of a plan or agenda to progress animal welfare.

Katherine McleodWeb

Katherine McLeod is a third year journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on twitter here: @kattt_mcleod