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The origins of the AAWS

The Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments’ (CoAG) Primary Industries Ministerial Council in May 2004 as a way of bringing a national approach to the continuous improvement of animal welfare. The strategy is aimed at all Australians and all uses we make of animals.

The AAWS is the culmination of 30 years of progress in the animal welfare arena. What started as a radical ideal in the 1970s has grown into a regular feature in the media and of consumer campaigns. Now the welfare and well-being of animals are the concern of everyone.

Significant milestones include the development of the Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals in 1980 by the national Sub Committee on Animal Welfare (now known as the Animal Welfare Working Group); and the establishment in 1983 of a Select Committee on Animal Welfare by the Australian Senate to enable structured debate and the emergence of new ideas for the sector.

In the late 1980s the National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare was set up to provide advice to the Australian Government. It brought together the disparate views of community groups and industry about the care and management of animals and found agreed positions. The information supplied by this forum has been a valuable source of advice to governments.

From the National Consultative Committee grew today’s initiative to build a broad strategy to bring animal welfare into the mainstream.

In 2005 the government gave the AAWS four years of funding and the task of reviewing all aspects of animal welfare to determine gaps, needs, areas of duplication and ways to build community support, awareness and understanding.

Six sectoral working groups have been established to ensure that the strategy is comprehensive and covers all sentient animals—animals that have feelings and experience suffering and pleasure. These six groups are:

•animals used for work, sport, recreation or display
•animals in the wild
•companion animals
•livestock/production animals
•aquatic animals
•animals used in research and teaching

Additional working groups review education and training provided across the country, investigate ways to incorporate animal welfare priorities into existing research and development programs and guide the development and implementation of a communication strategy.

These working groups build on the understanding developed through the National Consultative Committee and are achieving a remarkable level of cross-sectoral cooperation.

Sectoral industry organisations as well as animal welfare groups, veterinarians, researchers, government agencies and the general community are involved in the development and ongoing implementation of the strategy.

These groups are drawn together under the umbrella of the AAWS and share the goals of promoting the humane use of, and protecting, all sentient animals in Australia—with the overall aim of improving animal welfare outcomes.