The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle contain standards for the welfare of all cattle, in all types of farming enterprises in Australia from extensive grazing to fully housed systems. They apply to all those with responsibilities for the care and management of cattle, including those in both the beef and dairy industries.
The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle (Cattle S&G) were endorsed by state and territory governments in 2016. They replace the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Cattle (PISC report 85, CSIRO Publishing, 2004).
A large number of stakeholders including; welfare organisations, livestock industry representatives and service providers were involved in shaping the Cattle S&G. Animal Health Australia managed the process on behalf of all government and industry members. The standards were drafted by a small writing group comprising researchers, government and industry representatives, supported by a widely representative reference group.
The main decision-making principles used for developing the standards are to ensure the Cattle S&G are:
desirable for livestock welfare
feasible for industry and government to implement
important for the livestock-welfare regulatory framework
achieve the intended outcome for livestock welfare.
As part of the process for developing the Cattle S&G, a Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was developed and endorsed by the Commonwealth Office of Best Practice Regulation. The Decision RIS assessed the proposed standards and incorporated public consultation feedback and changes agreed by the majority of the group responsible for guiding the development of the Cattle S&G.
Consultation on the draft Cattle S&G was open from March to August in 2013. Views were sought from interested parties about how the draft Cattle S&G would help protect the welfare of cattle. Also open for comment was the associated Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), which aimed to demonstrate the need for the Cattle S&G, and identified the key costs and benefits for cattle, producers, the government, and the wider community. Stakeholders gave feedback before finalisation of the Cattle S&G.
The Final Cattle Public Consultation Response Action Plan (2014) provides a summary of the invited comments and submissions received during the five-month public consultation period for the draft Cattle S&G and the associated Consultation RIS, and the subsequent consideration of these documents by the cattle writing and reference groups.
The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle were agreed upon by state and territory governments in 2016, and have been or are being regulated into law by most state and territory governments.
The implementation dates (as of June 2023) for the Cattle S&G by state and territory are listed below:
Australian Capital Territory
Awaiting final modification to align with the animal welfare laws in the ACT
New South Wales
The Cattle S&G are prescribed guidelines under Section 34A of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. This means that they are not mandatory but can be used as evidence in proceedings under the Act or its Regulation. This commenced on 15 December 2017.
The new Livestock Biosecurity Act is envisioned to be implemented during 2025, including the full adoption and implementation of all Australian Animal Welfare S&G. The Cattle S&G is already adopted as a COP and used to determine whether a duty or obligation under the Act has been complied with.
Queensland regulated the Cattle S&G as a code of practice requirement under the Animal Care and Protection Regulation 2012 on 1 July 2021. A code of practice under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 is a mandatory code. The regulation relating to the spaying of cattle by non-veterinarians commenced on 1 January 2022.
The South Australian regulations to mandate the standards incorporated in the Cattle S&G came into operation on 15th April 2017.
The Animal Welfare (Cattle) Regulations 2023 are based on the standards in the Cattle S&G, with two minor differences relating to the handling and spaying of cattle. The Regulations are in place as of September 2023.
Victoria intends to adopt the Cattle S&G into legislation subject to normal policy development processes. In adopting the standards into regulation, Victoria will avoid duplication or lowering of existing animal welfare requirements. It is anticipated that national standards and guidelines agreed to by Victoria will be adopted through the new proposed Animal Welfare Act. This legislation is currently under development.
Western Australia has adopted the Cattle S&G as a code of practice under its Animal Welfare Act 2002. This means that, where a person has been charged with cruelty, compliance with the Cattle S&G can be used as a defence to the charge and non-compliance must be taken into consideration by the court. Western Australia also intends to implement the standards set out in the Cattle S&G as regulations. Regulations are currently being drafted. It is anticipated that the regulations will be implemented towards the end of 2023.