The RSPCA cannot regulate the farm sector while it continues to lobby against the very industries it wants to police, a parliamentary inquiry into the animal welfare group heard last week.
The VFF told the inquiry the undisputed authority to regulate commercial farming zones needed to stay with the Victorian Government through Agriculture Victoria, while the RSPCA should stick to watching over household pets.
Appearing before the committee, VFF Egg Group vice-president Brian Ahmed said the Victorian agriculture sector applied voluntary quality assurance programs, but farmers weren’t being given due credit for maintaining an outstanding level of animal welfare.
‘‘It is in a farmer’s best interest to ensure we have strict animal welfare practices in place, because we’re trying to run businesses and our livelihoods depend on it,’’ Mr Ahmed said.
‘‘We get a lot of pleasure out of producing food and feeding people, but our jobs are complicated when the RSPCA is constantly walking onto our farms, judging our processes and accusing us of being cruel when we’re following certified animal welfare guidelines.’’
Mr Ahmed said the strained relationship between farmers and the RSPCA stemmed from campaigns the animal welfare group ran against several agricultural industries, including the live export and caged egg industries.
‘‘The situation we have at the moment is that the RSPCA is confused about the role they want to play— do they want to be regulators or do they want to be activists? They can’t be both,’’ he said.
‘‘It is absolute hypocrisy to attack legal industries and actively campaign to shut down industries that aren’t cruel by the RSPCA’s own standards.’’
VFF livestock president Leonard Vallance, appearing alongside Mr Ahmed before the inquiry, said livestock industries paid $7million through the research body Meat and Livestock Australia to investigate the best animal health and welfare practices.
‘‘Australia is the only country where producers pay directly to an industry-funded body to get animal welfare outcomes and it’s something that makes our farmers proud,’’ Mr Vallance said.
‘‘But animals that are reared for productive purposes will always have different lives to animals that sit on a couch and watch television with you.
‘‘Too many RSPCA inspectors don’t understand the difference between domestic and productive animals and it leads to unfair and inaccurate allegations against farmers who are doing the right thing.’’