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How is animal welfare regulated at Australian knackeries?

A knackery is a facility where animals are killed for pet food or the making of animal by-products used in pet food. In some jurisdictions, a knackery may include establishments that receive live animals for slaughter and those that receive dead animals killed on-farm for further processing. The regulation for each of these types of establishment may differ.

The types of animals which are killed at knackeries are often those that are considered of lower value than those intended for human consumption, such as old dairy cows, bulls, sheep (usually older wethers, or castrated male sheep), goats, sows (older female pigs), horses and donkeys.

Pet food legislation

In Australia, unlike abattoirs and poultry processors, knackeries are not required to comply with relevant state or territory Food Acts or associated regulations. This is because they produce pet food rather than food for human consumption.

The pet food industry in Australia is essentially self-regulated by the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) with the voluntary Australian Standard for the manufacturing and marketing of pet food. To read more about how the pet food industry is regulated in Australia click here.

Knackeries that kill and process animals for pet food are required to be licenced by their relevant state or territory regulatory authority. The Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production of Pet Meat provides minimum standards and guidelines for hygienic processing of animals for pet food, however, whether knackeries are required to comply with these standards for licencing varies across each state and territory.

Animal welfare legislation

State and territory governments regulate animal welfare in Australia. In addition to pet food legislation and licencing requirements, knackeries must comply with their state or territory animal welfare legislation. The relevant regulatory authorities administer and enforce this legislation at a state and territory level. The Australian Government (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment) has no role in administering or enforcing state and territory animal welfare legislation and there is no equivalent legislation at the national level. To read more about Australian legislation governing animal welfare click here.

State and territory animal welfare legislation may refer to standards and guidelines or codes of practice, in particular, the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Livestock at Slaughtering Establishments. The Model Code covers handling, stunning and slaughtering of animals at abattoirs, poultry processors and knackeries.

Knackeries operating in accordance with the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production of Pet Meat are also required to comply with relevant codes of practice for the welfare of animals, such as the Model Code. As to whether the Model Code is compulsory under the animal welfare legislation, however, varies across jurisdictions: in SA it is a compulsory code; in Queensland it is voluntary; in WA it can be used as a defence against prosecution; and in NSW, NT, Victoria and Tasmania it is not referenced in animal welfare legislation at all.

Export legislation

Pet food is classified as a non-prescribed good under export legislation. This means pet food is not regulated by Australian export laws and as such the export requirements for knackeries are solely based on the importing country’s requirements.

What is the RSPCA’s view on the regulation of animal welfare at knackeries?

The RSPCA is concerned about the differences in the regulation of Australian knackeries across jurisdictions and the current gaps in those regulatory systems. These inconsistencies and gaps must be addressed. Having a consistent regulatory framework to regulate and enforce animal welfare across Australia, will facilitate continual improvement of animal welfare practices at knackeries.

To help address these concerns, the RSPCA commissioned a regulatory analysis of animal welfare in abattoirs (domestic and export), poultry processors and knackeries in each Australian jurisdiction. To read our report and learn more about how animal welfare is regulated in these slaughtering establishments, click here. To also view our interactive RSPCA Animal Welfare Scorecard click here, this scorecard visually shows the differences and gaps in animal welfare regulation at slaughtering establishments discussed in our report.

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Updated on October 26, 2021
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