Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines

Nationally consistent standards and guidelines for the welfare of livestock are being developed, cooperatively by government and livestock industries. The welfare standards and guidelines are based on the revision of the current Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals.

The welfare standards and guidelines for livestock aim to streamline livestock welfare legislation in Australia, ensuring that it is both practical for industry and results in improved welfare outcomes.

Australian producers have always been aware of their responsibilities for livestock welfare. Increasing awareness among consumers however, is placing significant pressure on our livestock industries to improve animal welfare. The development of national welfare standards and guidelines underpins access to overseas markets and reinforces Australia's international leadership in livestock welfare. Without such change Australia risks losing consumer confidence and significant national and international markets.

Australian Animal Welfare Standards

Standards are the legal requirements for livestock welfare and use the word 'must'. The standards will provide the basis for developing and implementing consistent legislation and enforcement across Australia.

The main decision-making principles used for developing the Standards are to ensure that standards are:

  • desirable for livestock welfare
  • feasible for industry and government to implement
  • important for the livestock-welfare regulatory framework
  • achievable, meet the intended outcome for livestock welfare

The 'Standards' (capital 'S') refers to the whole Standards and Guidelines document by name, while the individual 'standards' (small 's') detail the requirements of livestock management (practices and tasks) within each Standards document.

Australian animal welfare guidelines

Guidelines are recommended practices to achieve desirable livestock welfare outcomes. Guidelines will use the word 'should' and are designed to complement the standards. Non-compliance with one or more guidelines will not constitute an offence under law.

The Standards development process

The development process for the standards and guidelines is transparent and inclusive. Relevant scientific literature, current practice and community expectations are utilised to support an evidence-based approach.

The process involves representatives from livestock industry sectors, animal welfare and research organisations, relevant state and territory government agencies, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment and other stakeholders.

The process includes a public consultation stage which provides an opportunity for all members of the public to comment on the draft standards and guidelines before they are finalised. Then, only after significant consultation and liaison, will the standards and guidelines progress for endorsement by the Agriculture Ministers' Forum and implementation by the states and territories.

Standards and guidelines developed or in progress

Standards and Guidelines developed or in progress include:

  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Land Transport of Livestock (Version 1.1, 21 Sept 2012)
  • Victorian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Pigs (Revision 1, 2012)
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle (May 2014)
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep (May 2014)
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Livestock at Saleyards and Depots (2017)
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Exhibited Animals (Zoos) (pending endorsement)
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Livestock at Processing Establishments (in development)
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Poultry (endorsed July 2023)

A copy of the finalised standards can be accessed from the Australian Animal Welfare Standards website.

Implementation of the Standards

Under Australia's constitutional arrangements, state and territory governments are responsible for animal welfare arrangements within their jurisdictions. Once the new Standards are endorsed, the next step is for State jurisdictions to integrate them into legislation.

Livestock Management Act 2010

The Victorian Livestock Management Act 2010 provides the legislative framework for integrating agreed livestock management Standards and ensuring compliance. The Livestock Management Act will operate together with the existing Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, which focus more on the extremes of cruelty and livestock diseases.

Livestock management by definition includes aspects of:

  • animal health
  • animal welfare
  • biosecurity
  • traceability.

The Standards will be adopted (prescribed) into regulations under the Livestock Management Act 2010. Offences, penalties and infringements for failure to comply with specific standards will apply.

Further information

Further information on the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines is available from the Australian Animal Welfare Standards website.

Page last updated: 22 Aug 2023