- IMPROVING WELFARE
- ENSURING CONFORMANCE
- STRENGTHENING ESCAS
According to the Australian Government’s report into ESCAS, significant improvements in animal welfare have been delivered for Australian livestock and local livestock in export markets. This benefit has been through the implementation of ESCAS coupled with exporter and customer targeted training in handling, husbandry and slaughter practices and infrastructure investment in feedlots and abattoirs. The live export industry has acknowledged, however, that there have still been incidents of poor handling and slaughter, particularly where animals have left approved supply chains.
The development of LGAP recognises that further change to animal welfare practices must be achieved and encourages improved standards for all animals, regardless of origin in a more inclusive, sensitive and effective manner.
LGAP is not self-regulation. LGAP improves upon the ESCAS regulatory framework for livestock exported from Australia covering animal welfare from discharge in-market to the point of slaughter. The Program has been developed to strengthen the assurance sought through ESCAS by strengthening the commitment, oversight and management of welfare along the supply chain while also encouraging continual improvement and the attainment of best practice.
The broad objectives of LGAP encourage behavioural change by:
- Defining and supporting international standards for animal welfare, husbandry and management based on international precedents and scientific evidence.
- Fostering world’s best practice in the welfare and management of animals.
- Encouraging continuous improvement in the welfare and management of animals.
- Providing assurances that effective animal welfare and management standards are in place and being applied.
By defining comprehensive international standards for animal welfare, husbandry and management, LGAP provides clarity around what is expected when handling animals. The ESCAS Animal Welfare Standards are at times ambiguous and do not clearly state the desirable animal welfare outcome. The LGAP Standards remove this ambiguity which means they can be more consistently interpreted, understood and applied.
As a predominately facility-based program, LGAP can more effectively encourage behavioural change at the point that has the most immediate impact on the day-to-day welfare of animals; that is in-market at the feedlot, farm or abattoir.
The introduction of 'Levels' under LGAP presents a pathway for participants to surpass the current World Organisation for Animal Health's (OIE) guidelines and potentially achieve higher standards than those advocated through ESCAS.
Levels are particularly important in situations where Facilities in-market handle livestock from other importing countries or their own domestic supply, not just Australian livestock.
The use of Levels acknowledges that local livestock are often treated differently to livestock from Australia within export markets. While these handling methods may be consistent with OIE guidelines and that country’s own requirements, they may not be fully compliant with Australia’s expectations under ESCAS. ESCAS has some requirements which exceed OIE but fall short of science-based best practice. This approach also alleviates the potential for the Program to be criticised as being neo-colonial, trade restrictive and impinging upon sovereign rights while also promoting continual improvement and encouraging participants to progress through the various Levels in pursuit of best practice.
As shown in the diagram below, Level 1 can be considered OIE equivalent and could be applied to non-Australian livestock. Level 2 can be considered ESCAS equivalent and would be the mandatory minimum level required to receive Australian livestock. Level 3 recognises international ‘best practice’ and demonstrates the Program’s vision to foster best practice by acknowledging Facilities and Operators that are willing to extend their performance. The concept of ‘best practice’ under the Program is based on science, research and international precedents.
Facilities can be certified in combination, for example, Level 1 for local livestock and Level 2 for Australian livestock. The risk assessment and subsequent risk rating used under LGAP acts as an incentive for Facilities to adopt at least Level 1 for their local livestock (or livestock from other exporting countries) and requires Level 2 for Australian livestock as a minimum. Facilities that do not choose to adopt Level 1 for local livestock will likely be deemed to be higher risk and therefore subject to more audits and greater cost.
Under LGAP ongoing support would be available to assist Facilities and Operators to continue to improve practices and conform with LGAP requirements. Such support would be available through comprehensive training on animal welfare, behaviour and handling, provision of standard operating procedures, templates, manuals, guides, provision of audit outcomes and identification of nonconformities as a means to identify areas requiring improvement and auditor feedback on nonconformity corrective action.