Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) Conditions of Recognition

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, November 2018

Direction to staff

This document is instructional material for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) under its Practice Statement Framework. All staff must comply with it.

Download

DocumentPagesFile size
Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) Conditions of Recognition PDF10567 KB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Online version

[expand all]

Purpose of this document

This policy outlines the conditions under which the department formally recognises the Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) and the role of AUS-MEAT in auditing AAWCS certified export registered establishments. The scope of this policy includes Tier 2 abattoirs.

Definitions

The following table defines terms used in this document.

TermDefinition
Approved arrangementAn arrangement approved under clause 5 of Schedule 1 or under sub clause 22.1 of Schedule 7 and includes variation of such an arrangement in the circumstances specified in clause 17 of Schedule 1 or clause 27 of Schedule 7 of the Export Control (Meat and Meat Products) Orders 2005.
Animal welfare  incident reportA report raised by either establishment management or a department OPV to notify the relevant state/territory animal welfare regulatory agency in the event of:
  • Livestock being identified as unfit for an intended journey as per the Land Transport Standards; or
  • Improper handling of livestock by establishment staff.
Australian Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS)A voluntary program designed to demonstrate industry compliance to animal welfare and compliance with the voluntary Industry Animal Welfare Standards - Livestock Processing Establishments Preparing Meat for Human Consumption (Industry Animal Welfare Standards).
AAWCS Program RulesAre the program rules for the AAWCS which are administered by the Australian Meat Industry Language and Standards Committee (AMILSC) through AUS-MEAT Limited (AUS-MEAT).
AAWCS Certified establishmentUnder the AAWCS a certified establishment complies with the voluntary Industry Animal Welfare Standards.
AAWCS critical non-conformanceIn the context of the AAWCS, a critical non-conformance includes acts of animal cruelty, neglect or abuse which breaches applicable animal welfare legislation. Critical non-conformances are documented by an AUS-MEAT Critical Incident Report.
AAWCS major non-conformanceIn the context of the AAWCS a major non-conformance:
  • Has the potential to compromise animal welfare or impinge on the integrity of the Australian meat and livestock industry or AUS-MEAT;
  • If not addressed there would be potential for the non-conformity to further compromise the AAWCS Program Rules or the voluntary Industry Animal Welfare Standard;
  • There is enough non-conformance in an element to warrant a systematic major non-conformance; or
  • Reoccurring non-conformances which have not been addressed by corrective action.
A major non-conformance is documented in an AUS-MEAT Corrective Action Request (CAR).
AAWCS minor non-conformanceIn the context of the AAWCS a minor non-conformance:
Reflects a variance from the Rules or the Industry Animal Welfare Standards that is not likely to directly impinge on animal welfare or the integrity of the Australian meat and livestock industry or AUS-MEAT. A minor non-conformance is documented in an AUS-MEAT Corrective Action Request (CAR).
AAWCS Non-certified establishmentAn establishment that is not certified for animal welfare by AUS-MEAT under the AAWCS.
AAWCS Notification ProtocolA document to maintain AUS-MEAT’s obligations relating to the AUS-MEAT Animal Welfare Certification Program Rules for Livestock Processing Establishments. It includes the responsibility of notifying the Department (or other relevant State/territories Government Agencies) of changes to a Livestock Processing Establishment’s Animal Welfare Certification status and / or serious cases of Animal Welfare Non-conformances.
Industry Animal Welfare StandardIndustry Animal Welfare Standards – Livestock Processing Establishments Preparing Meat for Human Consumption (2nd Edition).
Withdrawn from AAWCS certificationAAWCS has been withdrawn either voluntarily or by AUS-MEAT on the advice of the AMILSC.

Policy statement

The AAWCS is a voluntary program owned by the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC). It was launched in September 2013 to demonstrate industry’s commitment to animal welfare and compliance with the Industry Animal Welfare Standards.

The rules for the AAWCS are contained in the AAWCS Program Rules and the AAWCS Notification Protocol.  

This policy does not replace the department’s audit policies applicable to export registered establishments. Rather it is an adjunct providing direction in relation to auditing of animal welfare on export registered abattoirs.

Because animal welfare legislation sits with the relevant state/territory regulatory agencies, the commonwealth does not have legislative power to take enforcement action to prosecute. It relies on a notification system (i.e. animal welfare incident report) to inform the relevant authority. 

Objective of this policy

The objectives of this policy are to:

  • Outline the conditions upon which the department formally recognises the AAWCS.
  • Describe how the department will verify and audit animal welfare on establishments that have opted into this voluntary industry program.
  • Describe how the department will verify and audit animal welfare on establishments that choose not to participate or have been withdrawn or suspended from the AAWCS either voluntarily or by AUS-MEAT upon advice from the AMILSC.

Legislative framework

The following list outlines the legislation that applies to verification and audit of animal welfare on export registered establishments:

  • Export Control Act 1982
  • Export Control (Meat and Meat Products) Orders 2005

Roles and responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities for verification and audit of animal welfare on export registered establishments are identified in the table below.

RoleResponsibility
Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC)
  • Maintain ownership of the voluntary Industry Animal Welfare Standards
  •  Manage the content of the standards
  • Ensure that the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC)/Australian Meat Processing Council (AMPC) Animal Welfare Review Committee regularly review the content of the voluntary Industry Animal Welfare Standards and communicate changes
Australian Meat Industry Language and Standards Committee (AMILSC)
  • Act as custodians of the AAWCS on behalf of AMIC
  • Establishment of the AAWCS Program Rules that are used by AUS-MEAT to verify conformance with the voluntary Industry Animal Welfare Standards
  • Manage identified AAWCS critical non-conformances
  • Direct AUS-MEAT to provide the department with information that is considered appropriate in connection with the export registered abattoir’s approved arrangement and any alleged or suspected breaches of Commonwealth laws
  • Provide direction to AUS-MEAT in relation to the Rules and Standards and ongoing certification
Area Technical Manager (ATM)
  • Approval of amendments to an export registered establishment’s approved arrangement
  • Conduct department audits of export registered abattoirs 
  • Limit the scope of the department animal welfare verification audits of AAWCS Certified establishments to sighting evidence of:
    • A current AAWCS Certificate; and
    • An acceptable audit outcome from the last AUS-MEAT verification audit
  • Determine the scope of animal welfare verification during department audits of non-certified abattoirs including those that have been suspended from the AAWCS voluntarily or by AUS-MEAT
AUS-MEAT
  • Maintain arrangements with AMIC for the auditing and certification of the AAWCS
  • Act as Program administrator, including management of audit arrangements and close out of CARs
  • Maintain and publish a register of participating establishments that are certified
  • Provide a copy of the AAWCS Register to the department on request
  • Provide an annual report on the AAWCS to the department
  • Immediately notify the department of any critical non-conformances
  • Develop and maintain the AAWCS Program Rules and AAWCS Notification Protocol
  • Ensure the Program (including verification audits) is managed in accordance with the AAWCS Program Rules
  • Notify AAWCS Certified establishment, including those in voluntary suspension, of any AAWCS Program Rule amendments
  • Provide Approved Auditors for the AAWCS
  • Participate in overseas audits as requested by the department
Establishment Management
  • Amend the approved arrangement to cover the elements of the AAWCS Program Rules and Notification Protocols
  • Seek approval from the ATM for any amendments to AAWCS within the approved arrangement
  • Provide animal welfare verification records, including department issued CARs and Animal Welfare Incident Reports (AWIRs), at the request of the AUS-MEAT Approved Auditor
  • Raise an Animal Welfare Incident Report in the event that a AAWCS critical non-conformance has been identified during an AUS-MEAT verification audit
  • Notify the OPV of AAWCS scheduled verification audits at the Weekly Meeting
  • Advise the OPV of AAWCS verification audit outcomes including, critical and major non-conformances by inviting them to the audit exit meeting
Export Meat Program Food Safety, Animal Health and Welfare Unit
  • Obtain an annual copy of the AUS-MEAT AAWCS Register
Obtain a copy from AUS-MEAT of the AAWCS annual report to the department
Field Operations Manager (FOM)
  • Conduct Critical Incident Response Audits when required
National Veterinary Technical Manager
  • Represent the department on the AMILSC
  • Chair of the EMIAC Animal Welfare Subcommittee
  • Advise the Export Meat Program senior management of outcomes of AMILSC critical non-conformance reviews
On-Plant Veterinarian (OPV)
  • Review AAWCS program section in the establishment’s approved arrangement prior to ATM approval
  • Monitor AAWCS verification audit notifications and audit outcomes, including major and critical non-conformances, as well as AAWCS suspensions, during the Weekly Meeting with establishment management and notify the ATM in the Weekly Report
  • Conduct monthly verification of animal welfare in accordance with the MEVS Guideline and relevant work instructions
  • Raise an Animal Welfare Incident Report when the establishment fails to identify an animal with an unfit to load condition as identified in the Land Transport Standards or an act of animal cruelty, neglect or abuse that occurs on plant outside an AAWCS verification audit for certified establishments or non-certified establishments
  • Provide a professional statement in Animal Welfare Incident reports as appropriate
  • Attend AAWCS verification audit entry and exit meetings of the establishment management

The department's commitment

The department will ensure that all export registered abattoirs meet the minimum animal welfare requirements as described in the Australian Standard for the hygienic production and transportation of meat and meat products for human consumption (AS4696:2007) (Australian Meat Standard). It will also ensure that market access requirements over and above the Australian Meat Standard are also maintained on export registered abattoirs.

In recognition of the AAWCS, the department will accept approved arrangement animal welfare programs on establishments that are certified by AUS-MEAT, by reducing the audit scope for animal welfare during its monthly or six-monthly audit programs.

The department will audit non-certified establishments against the Australian Meat Standard requirements for animal welfare and importing country requirements for animal welfare.  

Conditions of recognition of the AAWCS

The conditions of recognition of the AAWCS are:

  • Department continues to verify animal welfare;
  • Reporting of audit outcomes on AAWCS Certified export registered establishment by AUS-MEAT to the department through the EMIAC AWSC;  
  • Notification of AAWCS critical non-compliances by AUS -MEAT to the department through the EMIAC AWSC;
  • Participation in overseas audits by AUS-MEAT; and
  • Department to conduct an audit of animal welfare compliance at non-certified AAWCS abattoirs during its audits.

Department verification of animal welfare

Regardless of whether an establishment is AAWCS certified or not, the department verifies animal welfare on all export registered abattoirs under its Meat Establishment Verification System (MEVS). MEVS is used to underpin the department’s health certification system for export eligible meat and meat products.

There are two verification activities conducted monthly prescribed for animal welfare including Check-the-checker process monitoring verification of animal handling (load-in to the knocking box) and Check-the-checker process monitoring verification of slaughter floor or skinning room operations. The later check covers animal welfare elements that relate to stunning and sticking.

These formal verification activities are rated acceptable, marginal or unacceptable. Marginal outcomes incur a non-conformance issue (NCI) while unacceptable outcomes lead to a Corrective Action Request (CAR) being issued by the OPV.

For ad hoc findings outside of the formal verification checks, the OPV immediately notifies the appropriate establishment supervisor or quality assurance officer. Such issues are noted in the department’s records and they may be tabled at the Weekly Meeting with the establishment management. The exception to this rule is ad hoc findings that are assessed as unacceptable, in which case the OPV will issue a CAR. 

Reporting of audit outcomes on AAWCS Certified establishments

AUS-MEAT will provide, on request, a report to the department which includes but is not limited to the following information:

  • Total number AAWCS Certified establishments
  • Total number of establishments that have been suspended, either voluntarily or through audit, from the AAWCS
  • Total number of new AAWCS applications and dates of Certification
  • Dates of all initial and annual verification audits
  • For each establishment, all critical and major non-conformances and outcomes of any investigations.

The scope of animal welfare auditing by the department during its ATM audits, will be limited to verification of the currency of the establishment’s AAWCS Certification and the outcome of its last AUS-MEAT verification audit. Where there is evidence of potential systemic non-conformances with animal welfare, then the ATM may also review department on-plant animal welfare verification records, CARS and AWIRs and weekly reports for the period since the last AUS-MEAT AAWCS verification audit.

If an establishment has been suspended from the AAWCS, since the last department audit, then the scope for animal welfare auditing will be determined by the ATM lead auditor in accordance with the department’s audit checklist. As part of their audit preparation process, the ATM may enquire about any AMILSC applied sanctions (e.g. follow up audits by AUS-MEAT) and the status of recertification, if the establishment has taken this step.

The requirements for recertification are described in the AAWCS Program Rules. 

An AUS-MEAT representative will sit on the EMIAC Animal Welfare Subcommittee.

A department representative will sit on the AMILSC.

Notification of AAWCS critical non-compliances

In the event of an AAWCS critical non-compliance the following notifications are required immediately:

Establishment management should advise the OPV when issued a critical non-compliance by an AUS-MEAT authorised auditor. This can be achieved by inviting the OPV to the verification audit exit meeting. The OPV will advise their ATM.

Establishment management should notify the relevant state authority for animal welfare by raising an Animal Welfare Incident Report.

AUS-MEAT must immediately notify the department of all critical non-conformances simultaneous to notifying the AMILSC that will consider the actions to be taken. Depending on the outcome of an AMILSC meeting to review a critical non-compliance, the department may consider triggering its Critical Incident Response Guidelines which calls for an independent audit by the department.

Facilitation of overseas audits by AUS-MEAT

Whenever an AAWCS certified establishment is included in an overseas audit, the department may request that AUS-MEAT participates. AUS-MEAT will provide a representative/s that is suitably across the AAWCS Program Rules, notification process and has working knowledge of the respective establishment’s animal welfare programs.

For any non-conformances against an AAWCS Certified establishment’s animal welfare program found during an overseas audit, AUS-MEAT has undertaken to oversee any corrective actions required by the establishment. AUS-MEAT will keep the department informed of progress and the outcome of all non-conformances found during overseas audits.

Auditing of non-certified AAWCS Certified establishments

Export registered abattoirs that choose not to participate in the AAWCS and those establishments that are suspended from the AAWCS, at time of department audit, will be subject to the full scope of the department’s audit program animal welfare as detailed in the Audit Guidelines and the Export Meat System Audit Program. ATMs will use the current version of the systems audit checklist that are available on the department’s website.

Related material

The following related material is available on the AUS-MEAT website:

  • Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) Program Rules
  • Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) Notification Protocol

The following related materials are available on the department’s website:

  • Policy: Export Meat System Audit Program Operational Policy
  • Guideline: Audit Guidelines
  • Guideline: Critical Incident Response
  • Standards and Guideline: The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Land Transport Standard of Livestock 2012
  • Industry Animal Welfare Standards - Livestock Processing Establishments Preparing Meat for Human Consumption

Document information

The following table contains administrative metadata.

Instructional material owner:Assistant Secretary, Meat Exports Branch
Instructional Material Library document ID:External Publication
Freedom of information exemption:No
TRIM container number:2017/008653E
Review date:November 2019

Version history

The following table details the published date and amendment details for this document.

VersionDateAmendment details
1.030/11/2018First publication of this operational policy.

 

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
Thanks for your feedback.
Thanks! Your feedback has been submitted.

We aren't able to respond to your individual comments or questions.
To contact us directly phone us or submit an online inquiry

Please verify that you are not a robot.

Skip