The Australian government's budget, released this week, includes A$8.3 million ($6.1 million) over four years to support the future implementation of a global livestock welfare standard.
The Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP) is a proposed global conformity assessment program for livestock exports that protects the welfare of animals and fosters continual improvement and the attainment of best practice.
According to a 2015 government report into national regulations, the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), significant improvements in animal welfare have been delivered for Australian livestock and local livestock in export markets. Exporters have worked with customers to improve training in handling, husbandry and slaughter practices and infrastructure investment in feedlots and abattoirs. The live export industry has acknowledged, however, that there have still been incidents of poor handling and slaughter, particularly where animals have left approved supply chains.
The development of LGAP recognizes that further change to animal welfare practices must be achieved and encourages improved standards for all animals, regardless of origin.
Under LGAP not only are transport companies, feedlots and farms audited but so too are exporters and importers (which are currently not audited under ESCAS). This is anticipated to strengthen the oversight and management of welfare throughout the supply chain.
The broad objectives of LGAP encourage behavioral change by:
* Defining and supporting international standards for animal welfare, husbandry and management based on international precedents and scientific evidence.
* Fostering world’s best practice in the welfare and management of animals.
* Encouraging continuous improvement in the welfare and management of animals.
Providing assurances that effective animal welfare and management standards are in place and being applied.
By defining comprehensive international standards for animal welfare, husbandry and management, LGAP provides clarity around what is expected when handling animals. The ESCAS Animal Welfare Standards are at times ambiguous and do not clearly state the desirable animal welfare outcome. The LGAP Standards remove this ambiguity which means they can be more consistently interpreted, understood and applied.
LGAP is expected to be established as an independent not-for-profit membership organization. Membership would be open to industry service providers and companies, as well as those participating in the program including exporters, importers, feedlots, farms and abattoirs. The opportunity would also exist for animal welfare organisations to become members.
Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) CEO Simon Westaway said: “Australian livestock exporters are committed to delivering and demonstrating enhanced compliance with ESCAS standards as well as driving animal welfare improvements across global livestock supply chains. Our industry continues to back our world leading approach to animal welfare outcomes in the international livestock trade.
“This funding allocation confirms the Australian Government shares that vision and commitment to improved animal welfare outcomes and a more resilient livestock export trade.”
Westaway said ALEC members have provided in-principle support for LGAP, and its initial implementation.
“LGAP offers an improved and strengthened system which has been conceptually designed to provide assurances that animals are treated in accordance with the ESCAS standards from discharge to the point of slaughter.”
More information on ESCAS and animal welfare issues is available here.