In light of the recently published 2022 Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) Consultation Paper, FOUR PAWS would like to respond to ongoing media coverage in Australia and the hostile criticism of brands who are adopting aspirational benchmarks to improve animal welfare standards.
FOUR PAWS has been working closely with Compassion In World Farming, and supported by Chronos Sustainability, to create a science-backed benchmarking tool for improving animal welfare within the food industry.
The benchmark has been featured in numerous academic articles that cite its positive role in influencing food companies, in both improving their requirements for animal welfare, as well as to gain a better overview of their supply chain traceability.
Globally, many food brands are now adopting the BBFAW standards into their sustainability plans. In Australia, this has resulted in an aggressive response from some sectors of Australian agribusiness.
Yet every profit-driven business in the world expects to continually adapt and evolve to meet changing consumer preferences if they are to remain a competitive seller in their market.
This is evident across all industries and markets - the consumer has the choice of what they want to purchase. Yet some Australian agribusinesses seem to believe that they are above this, that it is they, the seller, who should dictate to Australian consumers what they will get.
Businesses like Coles and Woolworths who have committed to sustainability plans, including the BBFAW, can see the writing on the wall.
In 2023, consumer expectations have shifted significantly.
Climate change, environmental impacts of farming, health and animal welfare are now of primary importance to Australian consumers, and their purchasing decisions show this.
“The obvious and desperate tactics from some within Australian agribusiness, such as mis-labelling trusted global animal welfare charities, who are working with scientific bodies, and businesses who have signed on to the BBFAW, as ‘extremists’, shows an out-of-touch attitude towards their own consumers and the Australian market.
Instead of focusing energy on improving animal welfare standards and transparency in step with consumer expectations, sections of Australian agribusiness instead continue a disappointing preference for defensiveness and dismissing the choices of Australian public and businesses who are showing their support for change.”
Rebecca Linigen, National Director, FOUR PAWS Australia
Australia’s agricultural animal welfare standards consistently fall behind the rest of the world. A recent comparison of Australian and UK animal welfare standards, as part of the UK free trade agreement, was a stark reminder of this.
Battery hen cages, sow stalls, hormone-fed beef, hot branding, slaughterhouse CCTV and double the transit time for live exports are just a handful of examples where Australia’s animal welfare standards are far below the UK.
The Australian public understands this and wants Australia to be a leader in animal welfare and transparency.
Instead of reacting negatively to changing consumer and business standards and demanding that the status quo remain, agribusiness should embrace the new market as an opportunity, if they are to continue to benefit from the huge profits of their business model.
It's clear to the Australian public, who have the best interests of animals in mind, and businesses engaging with the BBFAW, that the reality of the future success and investment in these systems depends on greater transparency and improving animal welfare standards to meet community expectations.
FOUR PAWS Australia is the Australian office of the global animal welfare organisation, FOUR PAWS. FOUR PAWS seeks to protect animals under direct human influence, rescues animals in need worldwide and obtains legislative changes to ensure the long-term improvement of their living conditions.
We take a problem-solving approach and offers animals in distress swift and direct aid. Our aim is to achieve and establish changes in politics, society and the economy that will benefit animals – through projects, campaigns and education. Our work is based on scientific expertise, sound research and intensive national and international lobbying.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au