The legislation and Codes of Practice

All people involved in the handling of animals have an obligation to ensure that stress in livestock is minimised and that animals are well managed.

There is National and State legislation for animal welfare (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act) that covers aspects relating to animal cruelty and also several Codes of Practice that provide guidelines relating to livestock handling and animal welfare practices. These Codes vary across States, therefore it is important that you are aware of the requirements within your State, the relevant requirements for the species processed at your workplace and if your enterprise is export or domestic-registered.

Additionally, the AS4696:2007 Australian Standard for the hygienic production and transportation of meat and meat products for human consumption provides animal welfare standards that must be met.

The Standard refers to the Australian Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals No 10. Livestock (including poultry) at Slaughtering Establishments (Abattoirs, Slaughterhouses and Knackeries). The Code of Practice outlines the minimum requirements for the handling and slaughtering of animals at abattoirs. It is a national Model Code and forms the basis for animal welfare and handling procedures at each processing site.

The Industry Animal Welfare Standards

The Industry Animal Welfare Standards for livestock processing establishments were developed to assist industry to continually improve animal welfare outcomes for Australian livestock.

Livestock processing establishments already address issues associated with food safety and meat quality within their on-plant Quality Assurance (QA) under both domestic and export requirements. The addition of animal welfare principles to these systems contributes to a comprehensive and practical approach and addresses regulatory requirements.

The Standards provide the key requirements for the way that livestock are managed, handled and slaughtered at meat processing establishment. These Standards are intended to be fully incorporated into the Quality Assurance program at the plant so that all the relevant work instructions, standard operating procedures and recording requirements are then revised to meet the Standards as part of normal daily practice at the establishment.

The implementation of these Standards will also be assessed by the QA staff in a plant when they do internal process monitoring.  Additionally, key regulatory authorities (such as Department of Agriculture) will monitor the provisions outlined in the animal welfare Standards.  The Standards will also assist in meeting the requirements of customers, some of which have specific requirements already, while others continue to develop their animal welfare requirements.

The Standards cover the following areas:

Standard 1.                 Planning and contingencies

Adequate planning is carried out for management of livestock on a daily basis and contingencies are in place for emergencies to minimise risks to animal welfare.

Standard 2.               Maintenance and Design of Equipment and Facilities

Facilities and equipment are designed, maintained and operated to ensure minimal interference or stress is incurred by livestock.

Standard 3.                 Staff competency

All personnel responsible for the management of livestock or handling livestock are competent in their tasks and fulfil the requirements of these Standards.

Standard 4.   Management and humane destruction of weak, ill or injured livestock

Weak, ill or injured livestock are identified and promptly treated in a humane manner.

Standard 5.     Management of livestock to minimise stress and injuries

Livestock are routinely managed to minimise stress and injuries.

Standard 6.    Humane slaughter procedures

Procedures for humane slaughter, including restraint, stunning and slaughter of livestock, are carried out to minimise stress and in an efficient and effective manner.