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Crisis Response for Animal Welfare

Australian livestock businesses have economic, legal and ethical motives to ensure the welfare of animals in their care is maintained. However, in certain unplanned situations the everyday management of livestock could cease resulting in a crisis of animal welfare.

This crisis could happen as a result of the sudden death or injury of the person responsible for the livestock; it could be the result of bankruptcy; farm walk-off; or some other personal crisis or natural disaster. In some situations livestock could be left in a position where they require urgent attention, e.g. in intensive industries where there may be automatic feed and watering arrangements or ventilation systems that require supervision or intervention.

The aim of the Crisis Response for Animal Welfare (CRAW) project was to conduct a situation overview to examine the circumstances and needs of livestock caught up in crises and to recommend a national strategy for adoption and implementation by all government and industries to mitigate livestock welfare crises. The project was tasked to identify gaps in industry and government arrangements, and propose options to address these gaps.

Advice was sought on potential exposure to welfare emergencies, including those resulting from natural disasters or business continuity failures, with a focus on the intensive poultry, pig and ruminant livestock industries in the case of business continuity failure and the extensive grazing livestock industries in the case of natural disasters. Advice was provided on financial and legal implications for AUSVETPLAN, the EADRA and jurisdictions’ disaster management procedures. The review focused on the needs of livestock to ensure adequate planning and response mechanisms are in place.

The CRAW was an important project under the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS). Livestock industries and governments are seeking a consultation and management strategy to achieve progress with the recommendations to improve Australian arrangements.

In summary: the report makes 13 recommendations and notes that Australia generally has the capacity to manage animal welfare issues arising as a result of natural disasters, Emergency Animal Diseases (EADs) and the foreseeable market failures associated with these. No major structural or financial changes are proposed. Government is acknowledged to retain the lead response role but with a greater contribution by industry. Investment in additional risk mitigation by industry will be welcomed including specific arrangements that may avert a crisis. There are roles for the finance sector and welfare NGOs.

For industry: the main area of focus lies around the development of the tool kit to guide animal welfare contingency planning, definition of roles and responsibilities and clarifying the use of industry levy funds. Industries are capable of individually delivering improved industry risk mitigation services through their RDCs. 

For government: the main area of focus lies around the improvement of animal welfare crisis response plans (including roles and responsibilities), response tactics and national coordination arrangements. Animal welfare crisis planning and response is a major shared interest between government and industry that will also benefit from a national approach to achieve better management of animal welfare crisis situations across the nation. 

The recommendation to include the finance sector for development of policies and training, does not fit easily in this classification but could easily be part of a better coordinated national approach.

The CRAW project was managed by Kelly Wall at Animal Health Australia with a project team comprising of Kevin Shiell (Australian Dairy Farmers), Justin Toohey (Cattle Council of Australia), Steve Tate (Victoria Department of Primary Industries), Scott Turner (Department of Agriculture) and Kevin de Witte (Animal Health Australia). Funding was provided by AAWS, Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Dairy Australia.