The live animal export industry is important to the Australian economy, especially to producers and rural communities. However, the welfare of exported animals is also a priority to the Australian community. Members of the public provide Australian agriculture with the social licence to operate and want good animal welfare outcomes. Furthermore, trading partners will continue to require high standards for exports in terms of environmental sustainability and animal welfare practices.
By its nature, live animal exports present a high risk to animal health and welfare. There have been instances of non-compliance with animal welfare standards and instances of animal cruelty that have not been anticipated by the regulatory framework or evoked an appropriate regulatory response.
Exporters are individual businesses, some of which may have behaved in a non-compliant way that has adversely affected the reputation of the industry as a whole. The regulatory framework needs to ensure appropriate responses for non-compliance. The department as the regulator needs to respond appropriately to non-compliance. The industry overall needs to comply with the required standards and support the regulator to ensure long-term sustainability of the industry.
Several submissions to the review suggested that a statutory authority should perform the role of regulator of live animal exports. The approach taken by the review is to recommend improvements to the current regulatory framework and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resource’s regulatory practice. These measures include the establishment of an Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports to provide independent oversight of the department’s regulatory performance.