Australia needs to take notice of the progress being made with respect to animal welfare in the European Union (EU) and make similar advances, according to Voiceless chief executive officer Dana Campbell.
Speaking at the Voiceless 2011 Animal Law Lecture Series yesterday (2 August) at the New South Wales Law Society, attended by approximately 75 members of the legal profession as well as a representative from Australian Pork, Campbell noted the lack of progress Australia has made in terms of animal protection compared to that of the EU.
"The Four Corners program that aired in May on live exports opened Australians' eyes to the horrors of overseas export and slaughter. At Voiceless we've long been aware that it's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to animal suffering," she said. "Instead of pointing fingers at other countries' practices we should be seeking reforms here in Australia urgently and immediately."
Following an address made by keynote speaker and leading EU policy advisor Peter Stevenson, who described the advances made in the EU including a ban on battery cages, veal crates and the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, Campbell noted the lessons Australia can learn from these advancements and the growing animal protection movement.
"Peter noted that, in the EU, the mandate for the proper treatment of animals comes from the top down, in the fact that it's included in their Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, where animals are recognised as 'sentient beings' and the member states are required to pay full regard to the welfare of animals. There's nothing comparable to that here," she said.
Campbell added that, in contrast to the EU, Australia lacks any enforceable protections for animals and instead has model codes of practice which were developed in the mid-1980s and do not have the force of the law.
"Battery cages were banned in the EU in 1999 and the phase out will be complete as of 1 January," she explained. "Here in Australia, we're not even close to such a ban. Although interestingly, Coles supermarket has announced it will phase out eggs from their house brand by 2013. Here is the industry, probably as a result of consumer demand, taking the lead rather than government and laws."
Highlighting that Coles has also taken the lead by promising its own brand of pork products will be produced without sow stalls by the end of 2014, Campbell said if Australia does ever introduce proper animal protection laws, their enforcement should be the function of an independent law enforcement agency that is properly funded.