Friday, 11 May 2012

Should the RSPCA be involved in farm animal welfare?

An important political decision will be made in South Australia (SA) in the newt few weeks: should the RSPCA have power in relation to farm animal welfare?

Family First MLC the Hon Robert Brokenshire thinks not. He would like to see the RSPCA's power in relation to horses and livestock transferred to the SA  Department of Primary Industries and Resources (PIRSA).

The RSPCA does not want to relinquish its power and argues that locating farm animal welfare within the Department of Primary Industries represents a conflict of interests. The RSPCA argues that: 

The Department’s primary responsibility is to protect, promote and expand the profitability of the livestock industry.
The RSPCA has no difficulty with these aims but there must be a clear separation of powers so that no organisation is asked to both promote and police the same industry.
The RSPCA is asking members of the community to lobby the SA parliament on its behalf. 
The most appropriate location for animal welfare powers has been an important issue among animal protection theorists, especially lawyers, and animal advocates. 
The RSPCA has no power in relation to animals used in research and education. However, if the South Australian branch of the RSPCA loses its power in relation to farm animals, I think it will be an Australian first. 
There have been calls by animal activists, especially some years ago, to take investigation and enforcement powers away from the RSPCA (which is a private charity) and  hand them to the state. However, advocates of that position do not typically ask that animal welfare powers be transferred to Departments of Primary Industries. Indeed, I would assume that most animal advocates would consider that a conflict of interest. 
I know very little about political realities in South Australia. I have no idea why Family First is pursuing this agenda. However, I will be watching very closely to see whether SA is about to establish a highly significant precedent.    

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