Publication Details

Ellis, E. J. (2015). The Senate committee that deals with animal welfare is riding roughshod over dissenting views. The Conversation, (23 October),

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The Conversation


A Senate committee last week effectively killed off a proposal to create an independent animal welfare authority for Australia. Without the committee’s support, the Voice for Animals Bill introduced by the Greens has no hope of being enacted. But the Senate inquiry that preceded the report gave a valuable insight into how animal welfare issues are viewed within our political and wider culture. The inquiry was conducted by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee. Senators who have had direct involvement in livestock industries and/or represent states that are closely aligned with rural agricultural interests played a dominant part in the process. This situation forms a microcosm of a wider problem with existing animal welfare regulation: that primary industries and agriculture departments administer and, in some cases, enforce animal welfare laws. They also advise governments on animal welfare, with significant input from industry. While most animal welfare regulation is state-based, the Commonwealth adopts the same model, with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources bearing responsibility for most national animal welfare matters, including live exports. Yet the department’s predominant role is to support and promote agricultural and other industries – the very conflict of interest that the Greens' bill was seeking to avoid.