Anger of changes to welfare standards

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Bob GarnantThe West Australian
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Farming groups continue to voice their opposition to proposed changes to animal welfare standards and codes of practice, fearing they will be just another impost on the industry.

Authors of the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines argue changing community values and expectations warrant an update to the existing model Code of Practices for Welfare of Animals - Sheep.

The writing group, which was managed by Animal Health Australia, also indicated that international trading partners had placed greater emphasis on livestock welfare.

While the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy was in consultation with a broad spectrum of industry to provide greater certainty of all stakeholders and achieve nationally consistent outcomes, opponents have fired back through public submissions which closed on Monday.

Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders vice-president Jock MacRae said all of Australia's wool grower groups had major concerns with both process and prescription of the proposed code of practice changes.

"With no clear objective of animal welfare outcomes and what the costs will be associated to its implementation, this will add further disincentive to farm," he said.

"We will be saying no and encourage others to do the same."

WAFarmers, which dissected the consultation document, argued pain relief when mulesing should be voluntary, not mandatory, and restricting mulesing age to less than six months is inflexible in the cases of delays and stragglers.

WAFarmers supports the banning of tethering but has concerns about its practicability.

"Mandatory use of pain relief for laparoscopic and embryo transfer should be voluntary, not mandatory," a WAFarmers spokesman said.

Sheepmeat Council chief executive Ron Cullen said the sheepmeat industry was engaged throughout the development of the standards and was hopeful for a realistic outcome for all sheep producers.

"The Sheepmeat Council of Australia was active with submissions on issues including tail docking, sheep handling and humane killing, with hopes of consistent implementation of the standards in all state and territory animal welfare legislation," Mr Cullen said.

Kojonup sheep producer Rod Brockman said farmers had an invested interest in keeping the highest animal welfare standards without having a "big brother" legislation to worry about.

"The sheep flock is my sole source of income, of course I will be looking after my sheep," he said.

On completion of the 60-day period of public consultation, adjustments will be made to the standards by consensus of the Standards Reference Group.

The revised standards will then be submitted for endorsement by the Standing Council on Primary Industries.

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