• Public urged to have say on new animal welfare laws in Victoria

    March 22, 2024


    dog chained in kennel outside for woman banned from owning dogs after animal cruelty charges for Animal Friendly Life article on new animal welfare laws in Victoria

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    There’s still time for members of the public to have their say on the proposed new animal welfare laws in Victoria, with the government announcing an extension to the consultation period.

    Aimed at enhancing animal welfare legislation, the public is urged to submit their feedback by Monday, 25 March. The Victorian government aims to overhaul the outdated Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTA Act) with the draft bill.

    Draft animal care and protection bill consultation

    Dr Trevor Pisciotta, Executive Director of Animal Welfare Victoria, says the extension allows additional time for submissions. The decision to extend came after recent extreme weather conditions affecting the region.

    This marks the third and final round of consultations for the new legislation. The government has always committed to engaging with stakeholders and the community on the reforms.

    “Regional communities have already played a significant role in shaping the draft Bill,” Dr Pisciotta says.

    “Which is crucial in maintaining the confidence of our trading partners, consumers, and the community in Victoria’s animal-based activities and industries.”

    Over 50 organisations with interests in animals and legal issues have been consulted.

    Dr Pisciotta says the current POCTA Act no longer aligns with contemporary community expectations or advances in animal science.

    Legislation reform to acknowledge animal sentience and animal care standards

    A significant aspect of the new legislation is the acknowledgment of animal sentience. That is, recognising that animals can experience both positive and negative feelings.

    The government says the reforms aim to uphold Victoria’s high animal care standards. Adding they are essential for ensuring access to critical markets and maintaining the state’s reputation as a humane producer.

    The changes include establishing minimum animal care standards and specific requirements for husbandry practices.

    A significant aspect of the new legislation is the acknowledgment of animal sentience. That is,  recognising that animals can experience both positive and negative feelings. Recognising animal sentience is intended to reinforce current treatment and animal care standards without altering ownership rights or introducing legal rights for animals or third parties.

    Dr Pisciotta urged community members, groups, and organisations to engage with the consultation process. They’re encouraged to make submissions and complete a survey on future regulations. He directed those interested to the Engage Victoria website for additional resources, including a draft Bill guide and a frequently asked questions list.

    Farmers’ opposition to draft Bill

    The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) have concerns about the new animal welfare laws in Victoria. This week, the Federation says it is pushing for change to the draft legislation to “avoid unnecessary and unfair risks for farmers.”

    “The government wants to give itself discretionary powers to create licencing and compliance regimes,” says VFF Vice-President Danyel Cucinotta.

    “We know that if governments get the chance, they will abuse this power and crackdown on necessary on-farm practices for short term political goals.

    “We have seen governments take knee-jerk reactions in the past such as the Gillard Government’s overnight closure of the live cattle trade to Indonesia

    “The creation of any licences should be detailed in the legislation and be the decision of the parliament, not the executive government.”

    Sheep on a farm for Animal Friendly Life article on legislation reforms will recognise animal sentience and set animal care standards
    The VFF says the new laws could negatively impact farmers (image Unsplash)

    Concerns new animal welfare laws in Victoria will help animal activist but hinder farm businesses

    Ms Cucinotta says farmers have concerns the new legislation could also give rise to legal challenges by animal activists.

    “The draft Bill uses vague, subjective and ambiguous language to define animal care requirements,” she says.

    “And we’re concerned this opens the door to animal activists mounting unnecessary legal challenges.

    “We are recommending that some of the language can improve to make sure the intent is clear.”

    Ms Cucinotta says the new laws would bring in offences for intensive farming.  And will also target transportation of livestock and exhibiting animals at agricultural shows.

    “The creation of new offences targeting farm businesses that operate in intensive animal environments, or those which transport or show animals are completely unnecessary.

    “All farm businesses should be equal under the law,” she adds.

    Cucinotta stresses the importance of the new laws not enabling anyone’s ideology over the community. Adding that the regulations must be based on scientific evidence.

    “We need science-based animal welfare laws that give farmers the tools we need to maintain the best possible health and welfare of our animals and ensure can still produce the food and fibre that feed people.”

    “It’s important that Victorian farmers are united in our response to these new laws to ensure they represent a balanced outcome.”

    For further details and to participate in the consultation process, visit the official Engage Victoria website.

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