Animal Welfare Inspections of Intensive Farms

Background

All states and territories have agreed to work towards enforcing minimum animal welfare standards for livestock industries. While these minimum standards are being developed nationally, individual states need to enforce them under their own state legislation and may implement higher standards.

Amendments to Tasmania's Animal Welfare Act in 2008 paved the way for Tasmania to prescribe mandatory animal welfare standards. Some mandatory animal welfare standards have already been prescribed for the intensive egg industry and mandatory standards relating to other livestock industries will be introduced progressively based on the nationally agreed minimum standards.

In anticipation of mandatory animal welfare standards for intensive industries being adopted, a program of routine animal welfare inspections (AWIs) of intensive pig farms in Tasmania commenced in late 2009. Inspections of layer chicken and meat chicken farms were added to this program in late 2010. The inspections provide assurance that good standards of animal welfare are maintained on intensive farms in Tasmania. This delivers benefits to the animals, to consumers and to the farming industry.

Routine animal welfare inspections are conducted by DPIPWE and RSPCA Animal Welfare Officers who have been authorised by the Minister to enter and inspect premises where animals are kept for commercial purposes. Under the Animal Welfare Act 1993 these officers are authorised to enter at any reasonable time. The inspections are conducted in accordance with specified procedures which have been developed in consultation with industry and include strict biosecurity measures. All officers conducting farm inspections have been trained in these procedures.

Routine animal welfare inspections of intensive pig farms

Mandatory pig welfare standards are prescribed in Tasmanian legislation. The standards are those in the nationally agreed Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Pigs, 3rd Edition.  Tasmanian regulations have also imposed a ban on dry sow stalls to be introduced in 2013.

Under the routine animal welfare inspection program, pig farms with 50 or more sows are subject to unannounced farm inspections for the purpose of assessing animal welfare. Under this program, pig farms are subject to inspection about once every 2 years. 

Farm welfare is assessed against the national Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Pigs, 3rd Edition. Inspections involve advising producers about changes they need to make to comply with the Model Code and generally raising awareness among producers regarding mandatory standards.  Officers may issue instructions if animal welfare is at risk.

Enforcement action can be taken if the farmer is committing an offence under the Animal Welfare Act.  Inspections and enforcement also targets non-compliance with the animal welfare standards for pigs.

Routine animal welfare inspections of poultry farms

All commercial poultry farms, whether they produce eggs or chicken meat, are now subject to unannounced routine animal welfare inspections. Under the program, each farm is inspected about once every two years.

All chicken farms are assessed against the Tasmanian animal welfare guideline for poultry, which is the nationally agreed Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry 4th edition. Farms with caged laying hens are also assessed for compliance with the nationally agreed mandatory standards for caged laying hens prescribed in the Animal Welfare (Domestic Poultry) Regulations 2013.

If you are aware of an animal welfare problem on an intensive farm

There is ongoing public debate about intensive farming practices. It is important to understand that animal welfare officers are also bound by the law - the Animal Welfare Act and the regulations made under it. Officers may not issue a formal instruction or an infringement notice, or indeed collect evidence for a formal prosecution, if the farm is complying with the Animal Welfare Act and mandatory standards in the regulations, and animal welfare is not at obvious risk.

Any person who has evidence of non-compliance on a farm should report the matter to the RSPCA or contact Animal Welfare Enquiries at DPIPWE. Only authorised officers can inspect farms and the process of inspection and gathering of evidence for an animal welfare prosecution requires considerable skill and a thorough knowledge of the law and the rules of evidence.

To report an animal welfare problem, including animal welfare problems on farms, please contact:


To report animal cruelty

RSPCA Inspectorate
Phone: 1300 139 947
Email:  reportit@rspcatas.org.au

Contact

Animal Welfare Enquiries
Email: DPIPWEAnimalDisease.Enquiries@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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