National Standards and Guidelines for Livestock
What are they for and how do they work?
Having national standards for the welfare of livestock demonstrates Australia’s commitment to basic animal welfare standards.
Government and industry have agreed that nationally consistent standards and guidelines for livestock should cover all commercial livestock and at all points along the production supply chain. The Standards deliver two main outcomes that benefit both animal welfare and industry –
- They provide guidance for all people responsible for livestock on the minimum requirements for animal welfare
- They differentiate between normal animal husbandry practices within industry and animal cruelty offences under current animal welfare laws.
What is the difference between failing to uphold a national Standard and committing a cruelty offence?
When regulated, the Standards will operate where animals are in a poor state of welfare but the welfare issue does not constitute a cruelty offence. In this way, the Standards work as a layer of regulation below a cruelty offence.
So for example, in South Australia, a breach of the national Land Transport Standards has a maximum penalty of $2,500. Whereas a cruelty offence in that State has a maximum penalty of $50,000 or imprisonment for four years. The different penalties reflect the seriousness of the different offences.
In WA currently a breach of the Animal Welfare (Pig Industry) Regulations 2010 is a fine of $2,500. By contrast, the maximum penalty for a cruelty offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2002, reflects its seriousness and is a fine of $50,000 or five years in prison.
By acting as a layer of regulation that clearly sets out minimum animal welfare practices, the national Standards work to prevent animal cruelty instead of simply punishing those responsible after cruelty has already occurred. So, they are proactive rather than reactive. Given the role of the RSPCA is to prevent animal cruelty, this is obviously something we support.
RSPCA WA understands that in other States and Territories where national Standards are already in place and enforcement action has been taken for a breach of them, often an infringement notice is issued, instead of a prosecution in the courts.
Infringement notices allow minor offences to be dealt with by a payment instead of court action being taken. This is usually by payment of a smaller amount than the fine penalty for the offence. We have no reason to believe that the enforcement of the Standards would not be the same here in WA.
RSPCA WA sees implementation of and enforcement of national Standards as a win-win for animal welfare and industry. Animal welfare benefits from having minimum standards clearly set out and people working with livestock know what the community expects of them.
Having the ability to check for compliance with the Standards is the logical next step in this process.