A ground-breaking study reveals many people are unhappy with the way Australia’s animal welfare policies are set and governed.
The Australian Alliance for Animals has today released the findings of a survey conducted to explore the community expectations surrounding Australia’s animal welfare policies.
More than a thousand Australians participated in the online survey, which was carried out by leading behaviour change research institute BehaviourWorks Australia at Monash University.
Alliance for Animals’ Policy Director Dr Jed Goodfellow says the research was conducted to better understand public sentiment on decisions surrounding Australia’s animal welfare policies.
“Australians care deeply about animal welfare, but governments simply hand responsibility for making these big decisions to agriculture departments and ministers.
“We have long felt that this is problematic because agriculture departments and ministers often have objectives that conflict with improving animal welfare.
“We wanted to know if the public shares these concerns, and as it turns out, they do.”
Dr Goodfellow – who has more than 20 years’ experience in animal welfare law, policy and advocacy work – says the results clearly show Australian’s value animal welfare.
“Australians place high regard on animal welfare, and value independent and impartial oversight of animal welfare policymaking processes.
Dr Goodfellow says the research clearly outlines to state and territory governments what the community wants to see.
“Who should be involved, who should be in charge, what factors should be considered, how much weight should each factor be given?
“They want greater independence and impartiality and greater weight placed on the interests of animals in the process.
Some key results
More than 80% of Australians believe animal welfare policy decisions need to be made by an independent and impartial authority.
More than two-thirds believe there should be an independent animal welfare agency, while 22% supporting the current practice of allocating responsibility to departments of agriculture.
When it comes to policy trade-offs, 80% of Australians believe that impacts on animals should be the most important factor in animal welfare decision-making.
The results are in contrast to current practice, says Dr Goodfellow, where economic interest is routinely place ahead of animal welfare and community concern.
“The data reveals a democratic deficiency at the heart of our animal welfare system.
“It’s time we made the system more democratic for people and fairer for animals.”
To reflect community expectations, Dr Goodfellow says the first step should be to create independent animal welfare agencies.
“(These agencies would) undertake the policy and standards development processes on behalf of government.
“At the federal level, this could be in the form of a national Animal Welfare Commission that would work with the states to create national animal welfare policy and standards.
“At the state level, we could see the establishment of independent Animal Welfare Authorities that have responsibility for administering animal welfare legislation.
The Australian Alliance for Animals is a national charity leading a strategic alliance of Australia’s key animal protection organisations.
AAFA has a combined supporter base of more than two million people, with core members including Animals Australia, Humane Society International Australia, World Animal Protection Australia, Compassion in World Farming, FOUR PAWS Australia, and Voiceless, the animal protection institute.
The Australian Alliance for Animals’ #FairGoForAnimals reform platform proposes a new framework for creating a modern and contemporary animal welfare governance system that better fulfils the community’s expectations.
The animal welfare policy barometer, a summary of the survey findings and an open access link to detailed technical information for researchers are available at: http://www.allianceforanimals.org.au/animal-welfare-policy-barometer.