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Australia’s farm animal welfare standards need greater rigour, independent monitoring and a stronger foundation in science, which will be achieved in part by the establishment of a new independent animal welfare authority.

These are among the key recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s report on the Regulation of Australian Agriculture, released yesterday.

The report said, ‘To facilitate greater rigour in the process for developing national farm animal welfare standards, the Australian Government should take responsibility for ensuring that scientific principles guide the development of farm animal welfare standards. To do this, a stand-alone statutory organisation — the Australian Commission for Animal Welfare (ACAW) — should be established.

The RSPCA has welcomed the landmark report, which provides a clear vision for the future of animal welfare policy governance in Australia.

RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow said the findings of the comprehensive report justify many of the RSPCA’s concerns about the current lack of national leadership on farm animal welfare policy.

‘The report identifies the failure of our current standard-setting processes to properly consider independent scientific advice and community expectations regarding key animal welfare issues in livestock industries,

‘It also details widely-held concerns about the lack of transparency and conflicts of interest in the decision-making process.

‘The Productivity Commission’s recommendations would ensure that science and community expectations are at the centre of decisions around the way we treat farm animals.

‘By establishing a more independent framework, these proposals would also go some way to de-politicising the current animal welfare policy process, something a lot of stakeholders would greatly appreciate.

‘Establishing an Australian Commission for Animal Welfare would put Australia on the map internationally for excellence in animal welfare policy development.

The Productivity Commission report also highlights the need for greater openness and transparency in farm animal welfare monitoring and enforcement activities, as well as greater separation between agricultural policy matters and the monitoring and enforcement functions at the state level.

RSPCA Australia now calls upon the Australian Government to accept the Commission’s recommendations and commence work on their implementation.

The RSPCA is Australia’s leading animal welfare organisation and one of Australia’s most trusted charities. The RSPCA works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.

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