RSPCA Australia said that the standards, which are currently under a 60-day public consultation period, would only “entrench the status quo”. It pointed out that they would still allow “routine invasive procedures”, including dehorning, tail docking, castration and mulesing without pain relief, as well as the isolation of calves and sheep in individual stalls.
RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said: “The development of national standards is a fantastic opportunity to do great things for the welfare of Australian farm animals. So it’s extremely disappointing to us that, in their current form, all the standards do is allow poor practices to continue.
“The only good thing about these standards is that, in contrast to the old Model Codes they replace, which were merely guidelines, they will be enforceable.
“If we accept the standards in their current form, it will be a lost opportunity to make a real difference to the welfare of sheep and cattle on-farm,” said Neil.
The consultation period on the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle and for Sheep opened on 7 March and closes on 6 May 2013.
The Australian government said that the standards aim to create “nationally consistent rules for the care and management of cattle and sheep across all farming enterprises in Australia”. It added that they had been developed in partnership with industry, scientists, welfare groups, governments and the commonwealth, and were based on the “latest available scientific evidence”.
Under Australia’s consitutional arrangements, state and territory governments are responsible for setting and enforcing animal welfare legislation within their jurisdictions. Therefore, once the new standards have been adopted by Australia’s primary industry ministers, they will be adopted into state and territory legislation.