Certifying animal welfare and management across the globe

In 2011, the Australian Government introduced a new regulatory framework for the live export industry that covers the entire export supply chain in overseas market places from the point of disembarkation to the point of slaughter. The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) places the responsibility on Australian exporters to maintain control and traceability of livestock and to ensure measurable animal welfare outcomes in-market.

Coinciding with this, the Australian Government commissioned an independent review of the livestock export trade. The review, undertaken by Mr Bill Farmer AO, recommended that industry explore the application of quality assurance (QA) through the supply chain back on-farm to complement the Government’s regulatory compliance program, ESCAS.

Recognising this recommendation and the need for greater assurance regarding animal welfare, the Australian livestock export industry engaged Schuster Consulting Group in 2012 to undertake foundation research into the role QA and risk assessment may have in assisting exporters demonstrate compliance with ESCAS. A number of recommendations stemmed from this research, primarily: That a QA program complemented by a risk assessment component be developed to support the live export industry in aspiring to best practice and achieving ESCAS compliance.

The outcomes from the foundation research formed the basis of a further research project initiated in 2014 and funded through the Livestock Export Program (LEP) which is a joint research and development (R&D) partnership between the Australian Government, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and LiveCorp.

This new research project was to develop a fully implementable conformity assessment and certification Program for animal welfare and management, across the globe.

The development of this project was awarded by competitive tender to Schuster Consulting Group and its team of subject matter experts operating in the areas of project management, international conformity assessment, international animal welfare, IT systems, governance and supply chains.

Schuster Consulting Group undertook the development project within the required timeframe and successfully delivered the Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP) to the livestock exporter and red meat producer industries in April 2016. As a result, LGAP became known as the ‘regulatory enabler’ of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) and the project secured $8.3m Federal Government funding for implementation.

Governance and guidance

In developing LGAP, Schuster Consulting Group worked closely with an Industry-Government Consultative Committee as well as wider stakeholders.

The Industry-Government Consultative Committee included representatives from the live export industry, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Resources, the Australian Veterinary Association, the livestock producers’ R&D service provider: MLA and the Project Team. The Committee was independently chaired.

An independent Standards Committee was also convened to assist with the formation of the Program Standards. The formation of this Committee was guided by principles laid down by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the ISEAL Alliance. Committee members represented the Australian live export industry, the livestock producers’ R&D service provider, in-market stakeholders and animal welfare experts. This Committee was also independently chaired.

Consultation and dialogue

Supplementing these structures was intensive consultation and constructive dialogue with a range of stakeholders over the development period.

Consultation occurred with a number of stakeholders including (but not limited to): the RSPCA Australia, Animals Australia, World Animal Protection, Professor Temple Grandin, Dr Bernard Vallet, the Department of Agriculture, the Minister for Agriculture, in-market stakeholders in the Middle East, Indonesia and South East Asia and Australia livestock producer representative organisations as well as livestock exporters.

The LGAP Standards were also made available for a 60 day public comment period, consistent with expectations of the ISO, the WTO and ISEAL Alliance.

International precedents and science

The development of LGAP was based upon international guidelines as specified by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), ISO and the WTO. The ESCAS Animal Welfare Standards were also used as a basis for the Program.

In addition to these international guidelines, the formation of LGAP considered more than 35 programs, codes, standards, requirements or other such materials from Australia and around the world, as well as Australia’s major export market’s animal welfare legislation. Significant research was undertaken to establish, where possible, a scientific basis for all requirements in the LGAP Standards. Where a scientific basis could not be established, other precedents that existed were considered.

Development and trial

Schuster Consulting Group delivered a fully implementable conformity assessment and certification program and successfully trialed the program in three major export markets (the Middle East, Indonesia and Malaysia) as well as in Australia.

Deliverables included:

  • The LGAP Standards
  • The LGAP Certification Rules
  • The LGAP Conformance System
  • An implementation plan, budget and final report
  • Recommendations for governance structures
  • Auditor guidance and auditor training programs
  • Participant training programs, manuals and templates
  • Communication materials, presentations, webinars and a website

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