Mark Schipp: ‘International animal welfare standards and Australia’s contribution’

Thanks very much, Leigh,
for the introduction. And thank you also, Michael,
for your presentation. And thank you for the
opportunity to speak with you today. As has been mentioned, I’m the
Australian chief veterinary officer, a position that I’ve
held since the suspension of live exports to Indonesia
in June of 2011. As the chief veterinary officer,
I am responsible for national animal health
and welfare issues. And I represent Australia
internationally on veterinary issues, including to the World
Organisation for Animal Health, the OIE. While my talk will focus on
international animal welfare standards, I’d like to begin
by talking about animal welfare activities
in Australia. And Australia has been a
leader in this area, developing innovative approaches
to animal welfare, both domestically and
internationally. Public attitudes and scientific
knowledge about animal welfare have changed
enormously in recent years. But the Commonwealth Department
of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry had the
foresight to identify the need for Australia to be
ahead of the game and well-coordinated, and so develop
the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy eight
years ago. Animal welfare is a complex
public policy issue. The term can mean different
things to different people, as evidenced by a discussion on the
The Conversation website today debating, what is the
meaning of animal welfare? Change is an incremental
process, and improvements have to be negotiated. This was the approach taken
in developing the AAWS– lots of consultation with all
the interested parties, and the same approach is taken
in implementation. AAWS was established to create
a more consistent and effective animal welfare system
involving both the Australian state and territory
governments, industry, and community. Australia has no national animal
welfare legislation, and the AAWS is Australia’s
key policy document for improving animal welfare
outcomes. Under AAWS, the states and
territories are working on harmonising the key features of
their legislation to ensure consistent arrangements apply
across Australia. But AAWS is not about
controlling activities. It aims to build relationships
and partnerships between groups, leading to improved
coordination across the spectrum of activities, reduced
duplication of effort, and a more effective and
consistent approach to improving animal welfare. It involves 140 participants
from all interested sectors. There are about 50 approved
projects so far under the AAWS, since 2009. These projects provide
great leverage. Often the total value of the
project, with in-kind contributions taken into
account, is two or three times the value of the cash
component from AAWS. An example of concrete outcomes
from the AAWS is the Australia Animal Welfare
Standards for the Land Transport of Livestock, which
were derived from seven model codes of practise and
other documents. These were endorsed nationally
in 2009, and states and territories have been working
cooperatively to implement them and to develop consistent
regulations for enforcement. On this slide, you can see the
AAWS goals, and you will see that these include an
international component. Current priorities under AAWS
include the OIE regional animal welfare strategy. In November last year, I
attended the Global Conference on Animal Welfare, held
in Kuala Lumpur. It was notable there the number
of times the Australian experience and the Australian
approach was used as a reference point in developing
strategies and approaches in other countries and
other regions. But why is Australia involved
in animal welfare? We’re involved because
we care. We care about the welfare
of animals. We care about the long-term
sustainability of our livestock industries. We care about retaining
a vibrant and viable rural sector. We care about food security
in our region. There are many reasons for
Australia to be involved in and lead in the area
of animal welfare. Even where we provide direct
assistance to developing countries and neighbouring
regions, this brings us direct benefits through markets,
credibility, opportunities for engagement, and improved
buyer security. I would like to look, then, at
what influence Australia is having internationally. Here is a list, which I will
develop further in the following slides. DAFF, with the help of AusAID
and the support of AusAID, has been very active and influential
in promoting animal welfare through the OIE
and with our trading partners. The Regional Animal Welfare
Strategy was innovative, the first of its kind, and has been well-received in the region. DAFF has actively sought a place
on the ISO working group developing international
standards for animal welfare, operating under the premise
that the only way to have influence is to be involved. The Collaborating Centre is a
joint initiative driven by Australia and New Zealand. It is actively working with
stakeholders to identify high-priority research,
development, and extension opportunities to advance animal
welfare in our region. Various attempts have been made
to develop guidelines, codes of practise, and standards
to improve animal welfare and to underpin trade. Australia has been a strong
supporter of the OIE’s work in this area, and has encouraged
the OIE to include animal welfare in its mandate. But why the OIE? We support the OIE’s approach
because it was clear that there was a need for guidance on
animal welfare, because the OIE develops its standards
through a consultative process using a science base, which
private companies, lobby groups, and even the FAO
do not necessarily do. It is an intergovernmental
organisation, and therefore likely to be heard. The OIE’s objective is to
facilitate safe and animal welfare-friendly trade. FAO and companies that develop
their own standards do not have this same focus. The OIE is recognised
as an international animal health authority. And animal welfare
was a natural extension to that mandate. However, there are numerous
other standards out there. The OIE is an intergovernmental organisation. It was formally called the
Office International des Epizooties. It was formed in 1924 by a group
of veterinary colleagues working together to
solve problems. It was established in Paris
due to the spread of rinderpest into and through
Europe, and it was recognised that international cooperation
and collaboration was required to manage this issue. And it works. Rinderpest was declared
eradicated from the globe last year. There is no policing
role for OIE. It’s just mediation,
negotiation, and leading by example. Governments which adopt OIE
standards into their national requirements for animal health
benefit from the legal presumption that they are
complying with their World Trade Organisation
obligations. The OIE standards are considered
to be no more trade-restrictive than necessary
to ensure adequate animal health protection. But what happens in terms
of animal welfare? Although the SPS agreement does
not cover animal welfare, there are OIE processes for
developing and adopting animal welfare standards are the same
as those that are used for animal health. They have been adopted by
consensus after extensive consultation. Australia has played a role
from the very beginning, supplying experts on all the ad
hoc groups that developed the initial animal welfare
standards under the guidance of the Permanent Animal
Welfare Working Group. Here are a list of standards
that have been adopted to date. A draft chapter on animal
welfare and broiler production systems has been released for
comment and will be possibly adopted and added to
this list in May. The OIE releases draft standards
for member country comment twice a year. When this happens, my office
actively seeks comments from industry and welfare groups
and other registered stakeholders. And the OIE itself receives
comments from international animal welfare and livestock
industry organisations. The member country comments are
then submitted to the OIE, who work through them and
produce a revised draft, which is again sent out for comment. Then after at least two rounds
of consultation– but more usually, four– the draft will be put to the
world assembly of delegates at the annual General
Session in May. Here, the draft is discussed,
and although the OIE rules provide for adoption by a
majority vote, in practise, this is rarely done. The preferred approach
is consensus. The OIE process is truly
consultative, using delegates of the member countries
as the conduits. It is not done only by a group
of academics, by an industry lobby group, or by activists. Everyone, including these
groups, has an opportunity to have an input. There is inevitably tension
between different interest groups and between developed
and developing countries. This is where a science
base becomes vital. Australia has continued to
seek outcome-focused approaches to animal welfare
rather than prescriptive ones, so that the standards can be
applicable to all countries and all production systems. Many developing countries
comment that animal welfare cannot be given priority where
human welfare is still poor. Despite this, Australia supports
the OIE in its view that the existence of
international standards provides a goal for developing
countries to aim for and that history has shown that
improvements in human welfare go hand in hand with improvements in animal welfare. Countries must be assisted and
encouraged to make whatever changes are possible
and to move forward one step at a time. They cannot be forced. The OIE could simply adopt an
animal welfare chapter by majority vote, but this would
mean that those who voted against it would never look
at it, never use it, never acknowledge its value. Instead, the OIE gives member
countries the time they need to consider the proposals,
pitches them at a level that’s practical in all or most
situations, and waits to adopt the standards until consensus
is possible. This is the collaborative
approach that underpins the OIE. And while it’s not perfect, and
can be slow, it means that reluctant countries can
be brought along rather than left behind. The OIE Animal Welfare Standards
are not enforceable under international trade law,
but countries can enforce them domestically. We help countries implement
the standards domestically through education and
training, as part of capacity-building activities
in developing countries. Some countries may use the OIE
standards as a reference point when developing their
own legislation. And codes of practise can become
legislation, and so on. It’s a matter of incremental
and sustainable change, one step at a time. Other areas of work, in terms
of international standards, are those that are being
developed by the International Standards Organisation, ISO. ISO and OIE have signed a
cooperation agreement wherein ISO has begun the process of
developing technical standards for the welfare of animals
intended for human consumption. Australia is participating in
this group to ensure we have a seat at the table in developing
standards that may impact on our business and
our international trade. The intent is to encourage and
support conformity with the OIE Animal Welfare Standards,
to encourage adoption of the OIE animal welfare approaches
in international trade, to promote international
harmonisation, and to prevent the multiplication of private
schemes and certification schemes which are only
going to add costs and restrict trade. I would now like to turn to
some specific examples of Australia’s work internationally
on animal welfare standards using the
four examples shown here. The Improved Animal Welfare
Programme provides funding of $10 million over four years
to support improved animal welfare outcomes in official
development assistance-eligible countries
that import live animals for feeder or slaughter purposes
from Australia. Indonesia is expected to be the
main beneficiary from the programme, as it is Australia’s
largest live cattle market. However, other ODA-eligible
countries likely to receive assistance include Vietnam,
the Philippines, Jordan, Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt,
and Mauritius. Under the programme, the OIE,
the World Organisation for Animal Health, has been engaged
to develop and deliver training on OIE animal
welfare standards. Secondly, the OIE Regional
Animal Welfare Strategy, which was established five years
ago, through which the Australian government funds
activities in our region of Asia, the Far East, and Oceania,
works to improve welfare of animals
in that region. Activities are funded to include
education, improve regulation, research
and development. Implementation of RAWS for
Asia, the Far East, and Oceania provides a model that
has been adopted by a number of other regions. Australia was a pioneer
in this area in establishing RAWS. The recognition by the OIE of
the New Zealand/Australia OIE Collaborating Centre on Animal
Welfare Science and Bioethical Analysis was important to assist
AAWS’ research and development efforts. AAWS funds some of the OIE
animal welfare activities in Asia, including this programme
and another programme, which is in cooperation with the
University of Putra, Malaysia. This project aims to increase
animal welfare science capacity in the region. It will include a number of
surveys and workshops, training across four
countries– Malaysia, Thailand,
Vietnam, and the People’s Republic of China. The Collaborating Centre is
developing a residential animal welfare training course
for industry organisations, veterinarians, and others in the
diverse fields of animal welfare regulation, law,
national and local management, science, practise, economics,
and ethics. It is also compiling an
authoritative publication on the future directions of animal
welfare and is actively working with stakeholders to
identify high-priority research, development, and
extension opportunities to advance animal welfare
in our region. Michael has already mentioned
the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which was
fully implemented on the 1st of January this year. The ESCAS regulatory framework
requires evidence that feeder and slaughter livestock will be
handled and processed up to and including the point of
slaughter in accordance with OIE welfare standards. And it enables the continuation
of a highly valuable trade by placing it on
a sustainable footing and by ensuring the Australian live
export industry meets community expectations. ESCAS brings additional
transparency to the live export industry and provides
a process that allows the department, as the regulator,
to take appropriate action when noncompliance
is reported. During the phased implementation
of ESCAS across 2012, there was significant
liaison with industry and state governments and
communication at international government officials’ level
in order to work towards resolution of any identified
issues with ESCAS. We will continue to work
together to ensure acceptable animal welfare standards are
maintained under ESCAS. All new markets for feeder and
slaughter livestock will be subject to ESCAS immediately
upon their commencement. In conclusion, then, Australia
is alert to trends in the animal welfare arena. We are adapting to the changing
forces at play and positioning ourselves to
make global demands. Australia is a pragmatic
leader in the field of animal welfare. Change is slow, but the
successes are real and are of benefit beyond our shores. We remain committed to improving
animal welfare through all available means,
including through the development of international
standards. In closing, I would like to
thank you for your attention. I look forward to the
presentations from Lynne and Malcolm. And I’d like to acknowledge
the work of my staff in preparing this presentation. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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