Improved codes of animal welfare and a bigger focus on sentience are among the operational highlights of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which published its annual report for 2019 today.
NAWAC is an independent committee formed to give advice on animal welfare to the Minister of Agriculture.
The committee was pleased to recommend an amendment to the dairy cattle code of welfare in June 2019, which addresses dairy cattle welfare in off-pasture management systems. The amended code was issued 31 October 2019. NAWAC looks forward to the introduction of further minimum standards, which will set more requirements for dairy cattle being held off-pasture for more than 150 days in a 365-day period.
NAWAC also progressed a new code of welfare for breeder birds, and anticipates that this code will be publically consulted in 2020.
Codes of welfare expand on the requirements in the Animal Welfare Act 1999, with minimum standards and recommended best practice designed to provide for animals' overall physical, health, and behavioural needs.
As well as working on codes of welfare, NAWAC provided independent advice to the Minister of Agriculture on the development of the regulations on significant surgical procedures and livestock exports.
NAWAC chairperson, Dr Gwyneth Verkerk, says that 2019 was a busy year for the committee and its secretariat within MPI, and the next few years will bring more changes to codes of welfare.
"In conjunction with MPI, NAWAC has agreed a programme to review several important codes in the next 3 years and identified a timeline for review of the balance of codes. NAWAC also agreed to commence work on a welfare code for finfish in the aquaculture industry, with that work item planned over the next 3 years."
During the year the committee also focused on the development of a framework for considering the societal values related to using animals for exhibition, entertainment and encounter, and looks forward to this progressing in 2020.
"The committee is increasing its emphasis on animal sentience when providing advice. Sentience provides a lens to focus on the welfare implications of the balance of emotions and feelings experienced by an animal. Standards need to give direction away from things that induce negative feelings, such as periodic hunger from variable feeding regimes, and ways to increase positive experiences for example by providing more natural environments," says Dr Gwyneth Verkerk.
Download the 2019 NAWAC annual report [PDF, 442 KB]