Now I Am Really Confused…

Once upon a time it used to be that only occasionally I would read a news article or hear something on the radio/TV that would cause me to stop, scratch my head and say “Huh?”
Though of late, that seems to be happening more and more often, with today being one of those days.

Having a read of the latest articles on BeefCentral.com, one article in particular caused me to ask myself a few expletives that I won’t put in here. The article was titled “RSPCA to launch beef welfare challenge”[1]

Reading the article, I find that the RSPCA Australia’s CEO, Heather Neil, had a bit of a spiel to the Australian Lot Feeders Association’s BeefEx conference on the Gold Coast.

I must admit that when I first read this I thought that it was a good idea for the RSPCA to head on out there and have a chat to them, and maybe get them to lift their game. Then I thought that maybe it was actually a bad idea, much like the police commish heading on out to one of the yearly gatherings of alleged outlaw motorcycle groups and letting them know exactly what they would be looking for in the next 12 months. And that is exactly what Ms Neil did.

While I have always been a bit dubious of the RSPCA’s connection with animal agriculture, I think that her appearance was a serious no no.

Here is Ms Neil the head of the non-government body that is supposed to investigate these organisations for breaches of the relevant animal welfare legislation, and she is telling them that they need to be able to measure, monitor and report its animal welfare progress to the community. Adding that studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for food that has been produced to a higher welfare standard than that which hasn’t. This further supports a comment that I made in 2010, where I wrote that I believe that the sole purpose of welfare reform is to improve the profitability of animal agriculture[2].

The industry also discovered that the RSPCA will soon be releasing guidelines for their “Beef Cattle Welfare Challenge”. Supposedly the standards will be set very high, though not really that high, because the animal will still be treated as a commodity, and killed unnecessarily.

Once this scheme is launched, farms will pay the RSPCA a royalty to display the “RSPCA approved” logo. With the money going to a number of things, amongst which will be the promotion of the scheme to consumers, retailers and producers.

Ms Neil also gave NAPCO’s Wainui Feedlot a huge pat on the back for being quiet, with no smell, and for following Temple Grandin’s designs for curved chutes, and non slip floors.

Was Ms Neil letting them know what is going to be contained in the soon to be released guidelines when she told them that de-horsing, castration, and hot iron branding when performed without pain relief were “visually confronting and were therefore much more likely to attract the attention of the public in the future”?

Still potentially giving more of the game away, Ms Neil told the conference the potential issues were stock densities, barren environment, shelter and freedom to express where they move. Indicating that the industry should focus on ways to provide stimulation and to relieve boredom for cattle, along with the opportunity and reason to move.

Who knows, maybe once this scheme is launched, an RSPCA approved feedlot will have a roof, some shade cloth, a few balls to play with, maybe some music, and possibly even an adjacent grid for them to wander around in if they get bored.

I hope I’m not alone when I find it problematic that the CEO of RSPCA Australia is telling the feedlot industry how much of a great job they are doing animal welfare-wise, along with possibly a veiled threat or indication of what is to come by saying that NGO’s can bring about change much faster by talking to the community and consumers than they can by working behind the scenes and relying on government.

Should the organisation that the public has put their faith in, and allowed to have legislative responsibilities that no other NGO has, to investigate cases of animal cruelty be able to receive any sort of financial support from those who they may have to investigate?
Or does it further indicate that regardless of how much legislative compliance there is for a Code of Practice or Australian Standard, they are pretty much unenforceable and not really worth the paper that they are written on?

References:
1: RSPCA to launch beef welfare challenge
Retrieved 12 Oct 2012

2: Abolition Vs Welfare reform/regulation Part I