Animal Welfare Inspections of Intensive Farms
Amendments to Tasmania’s Animal Welfare Act in 2008 paved the way for Tasmania to prescribe mandatory animal welfare standards. Some mandatory animal welfare standards have already been prescribed for the intensive egg industry and mandatory standards relating to other livestock industries will be introduced progressively based on the nationally agreed minimum standards.
In anticipation of mandatory animal welfare standards for intensive industries being adopted, a program of routine animal welfare inspections (AWIs) of intensive pig farms in Tasmania commenced in late 2009. Inspections of layer chicken and meat chicken farms were added to this program in late 2010. The inspections provide assurance that good standards of animal welfare are maintained on intensive farms in Tasmania. This delivers benefits to the animals, to consumers and to the farming industry.
Routine animal welfare inspections are conducted by DPIPWE and RSPCA Animal Welfare Officers who have been authorised by the Minister to enter and inspect premises where animals are kept for commercial purposes. Under the Animal Welfare Act, these officers are authorised to enter at any reasonable time. The inspections are conducted in accordance with specified procedures which have been developed in consultation with industry and include strict biosecurity measures. All officers conducting farm inspections have been trained in these procedures.
Mandatory pig welfare standards will soon be prescribed in Tasmanian legislation. The standards will be, for the most part, those in the nationally agreed Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Pigs, 3rd Edition. With respect to dry sow stalls, however, the Tasmanian regulations will impose an additional standard that goes beyond the national code with a ban on dry sow stalls to be introduced in 2013.
Under the routine animal welfare inspection program, pig farms with 50 or more sows are subject to unannounced farm inspections for the purpose of assessing animal welfare. Under this program, pig farms are subject to inspection about once every 2 years.
At present, farm welfare is being assessed against the Tasmanian animal welfare guideline for pigs which is the national Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Pigs, 3rd edition. Inspections involve advising producers about changes they need to make to comply with the Model Code and generally raising awareness among producers that mandatory standards will soon be introduced. Officers may issue instructions if animal welfare is at risk. They cannot take any other enforcement action unless the farmer is committing an offence under the Animal Welfare Act.
Once the animal welfare standards for pigs are formally prescribed, inspections will specifically target non-compliance with the standards which, by then, will have legal force.
All chicken farms are assessed against the Tasmanian animal welfare guideline for poultry, which is the nationally agreed Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry 4th edition. Farms with caged laying hens are also assessed for compliance with the nationally agreed mandatory standards for caged laying hens prescribed in the Animal Welfare Regulations 2008.
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