The Australian Alpaca industry has floated between a pet/lifestyle focus and a livestock industry for a number of years. The truth is, it is both of these, with the commonality being the alpaca, with its exotic looks, its captivating temperament and its wonderful fleece. The recent campaign by PETA claiming animal welfare issues associated with alpaca shearing, has resulted in a number of brands banning the use of alpaca fibre and has tainted the image of alpaca. New world alpaca farmers have been clear to state that that’s not how animals are handled in their countries. Many alpaca growers extol the clean green attributes of the alpaca, but there isn’t an industry-wide policy, which we, as growers, can use to backup the claims we make.
All other comparable livestock industries (cattle, pigs, sheep) have developed a sustainability framework for their industries and it is time that the alpaca industry does too.
What is a Sustainability Framework?
A Sustainability Framework is an industry policy document that sets out the goals and practices to be undertaken by members to align with the needs and expectations of consumers, customers, government departments and the public.
What is Included in a Sustainability Framework?
A Sustainability Framework covers 5 areas involved in alpaca farming:
- Animal Welfare
- Environmental Stewardship
- Biosecurity Control
- Economic Resilience (keeping farmers profitable)
- People and Community (ensuring staff and external workers are paid fairly and have safe working environments).
The Sustainability Framework is a document that outlines minimal requirements for all parts of the industry, sets goals and performance indicators that can be measured, reports annually on performance toward those goals and regularly reviews the document to ensure ongoing improvement.
What benefits will individual growers receive?
By being part of an industry that has a demonstrable policy for sustainable growth, being an accredited member will:
- Show you care about the welfare of alpacas, the environment and ensuring customers receive the best quality and ethically produced Australian alpaca and alpaca fibre;
- Allow you to connect with customers who see ethical treatment and sustainability as core requirements to buy goods;
- Demonstrate compliance with regulations;
- Provide access to markets where these standards are required, including export markets; and
- Allow you to promote your sustainable production and have data to prove to animal activists and concerned public that alpaca farming is ethical and sustainable.
What needs to be done?
Our CEO has pulled together a Sustainability Framework outline from her experience in other agricultural industries and the Board has recruited Julie Wilkinson who is an Environmental Consultant and has experience in developing corporate documentation of this nature in a range of industries. But to develop the framework, we need input from the wide range of members that our industry is comprised of: from large to small, from breeders to processors to shearers, from Tasmania to Queensland. Input from all our members will ensure AAA develops a Sustainability Framework document that applies to all of our industry and provides certainty to our customers and benefits to our members.
We are seeking Expressions of Interest from AAA members who would like to join a Working Party to develop the Alpaca Sustainability Framework for our industry.
All members will be given an opportunity to comment on drafts of the document and will be asked to complete a survey, which will provide the baseline data to measure against.
Expressions of interest should be sent to:
Amanda Olthof, AAA Chief Executive Officer – email@example.com by COB 12 February. While there are no prerequisites to involvement, your EOI should outline why you would like to be involved and what you think you could contribute to the Working Party. The intention is to have an operating Framework document by the end of 2021.