Meet Australian cattle & sheep farmers, discover 100 research projects and learn more about what is important to the sustainability of the industry

Welfare in Meat Processing

The Issues

The slaughter of animals can be a confronting concept for most people regardless of beliefs, education or understanding of the processes involved.

The Facts

  • Australia produces around 2.2 million tonnes of beef and around 456,997 tonnes of lamb and 183,157 tonnes of mutton per year.
  • Good animal welfare practice is a legal requirement in Australia.
  • The processing industry has developed the Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System or AAWCS – an independently audited certification program used by Australian livestock processors to demonstrate compliance with the industry best practice animal welfare standards (Industry Animal Welfare Standards for Livestock Processing Establishments Preparing Meat for Human Consumption).
  • There is a legal responsibility to notify relevant authorities of any instances of animal cruelty.
  • Standard Operating Procedures for the management of livestock include contingency procedures to prevent and mitigate possible risks to animal welfare.
  • Facilities and equipment are designed and maintained to ensure minimal interference or stress is incurred by livestock.
  • Weak, ill or injured livestock are identified and promptly treated in a humane manner.
  • Restraint, stunning and slaughter procedures are carried out in a humane and effective manner.
  • Under Australia’s constitutional arrangements, state and territory governments are responsible for animal welfare arrangements within their jurisdictions. The states and territories set and enforce animal welfare standards through animal welfare or prevention of cruelty to animals legislation. The Animal Welfare Act sets out the basic obligations relating to the care and killing of animals. One of these is that animals must be killed in such a manner that they do not suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.
  • Slaughter practices are also enforced by the relevant licensing bodies, including the State Meat Authorities under the relevant Meat Industry Acts, and AQIS for the Commonwealth.
  • Australian processors are also required as part of their licenses to meet specific regulations, described in the Codes of Practice, standards and notices that enforce the appropriate management and handling of livestock and prevent practices which are considered cruel and/or that causes or results in unnecessary harm, neglect or suffering of animals.

The Research

  • The Australian processing industry has invested considerably in animal welfare research and development. This includes:
    • Funding for the development of standards
    • Participation in Government standard setting processes
    • Research on-plant and across the supply chain towards enhancing livestock management, handling and slaughter practices and the delivery of training and education to industry and the community.
  • The Australian processing industry also contributes directly through the Federal Government initiative, the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) which is consistent with the Australian Meat Industry Council’s animal welfare mission that ensures acceptable animal welfare standards are implemented and effectively verified.

The industry supports the existing standards and guidelines relating to practices in the livestock processing industry including:

There is a worldwide research effort to determine reasonable and practicable methods to improve welfare. Research is funded by industry and government. Government departments, CSIRO, Universities and a number of other research groups across Australia are being funded to investigate enhanced livestock management options. For more information: www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au or www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au.

The Australian processing industry has developed and implemented world’s best practice animal welfare standards:

  • The Australian processing industry, in 2005, developed and implemented the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) Industry Animal Welfare Standards for Livestock Processing Establishments
  • These best practice Standards integrate the national Codes of Practice, relevant State and Commonwealth legislation and other commercial requirements, as well incorporating literature from Australia and overseas and customers
  • The Standards were developing by a national committee, comprising representatives from Government, science, animal welfare organisations (RSPCA and Animals Australia), as well as technical experts and representatives from industry. Corresponding members also provided external review of the Standards, including Dr Temple Grandin who is responsible for many international peer reviewed papers on animal welfare and livestock handling, as well as the development of US animal welfare standards
  • The Standards are verified by Commonwealth and State inspectors and also commercial auditors on behalf of customers
  • At the Commonwealth level, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) legally sanctions and recognises the Standard within its regulatory framework and maintains a presence at export establishments to assess measure and review animal welfare practices on a daily basis. AQIS also conduct an annual audit against the AMIC standards, in support of being able to benchmark continual industry improvement