THE RSPCA’s position on a committee responsible for improving animal welfare standards in live export markets has come under fire.
Top End cattle producer, Patrick Underwood, Inverway Station, sits on the Live Export Standards Advisory Group (LESAG) representing the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).
The group was formed to investigate livestock export standards and recommend constructive changes to the Federal Agriculture Minister.
Mr Underwood questioned the membership of RSPCA’s chief scientist, Dr Bidda Jones, saying she had "shown her true colours" by publicly calling for the trade to end.
"I question her objectivity in providing constructive input into that forum which is actually supposed to improve live exports, not stop the trade," he said.
RSPCA spokesperson, Lisa Chalk, said while LESAG’s objective was one of continuous improvement in the live export trade, it had proven to be completely ineffective and its decisions were not taken seriously by the government.
Ms Chalk said the infrequency of meetings had frustrated the RSPCA.
"Our policy on live export is 30 years old; any improvements that have occurred over that time have happened because of pressure from animal welfare groups like the RSPCA," she said.
"Having a policy in support of an end to the trade hasn’t stopped us working very hard to influence the highest possible standards for exported animals while ever the trade continues."
Australian Live Exporters Council chief executive, Lach MacKinnon, said LESAG needed a "revamp".
"Those who sit around it, aside from the couple who have an agenda to stop the trade, have an understanding of what is good for livestock," he said.
"I see a need for those who obviously have entirely independent views sitting on there - and I stress the word 'independent', as opposed to biased views.
"If that was delivered, I am sure you would see massive improvements in that organisation."
CCA chief executive, David Inall, said he understood the criticism directed at LESAG, but would not comment on whether the RSPCA’s future membership was in jeopardy.
Mr Inall said the CCA had maintained an ongoing and constructive relationship with the RSPCA.
However, he said the Indonesian suspension was "policy initiated from a handy-cam", and was pleased the Senate inquiry was producing evidence of the ongoing work being done by industry to improve animal welfare standards in Indonesia, which had not been properly acknowledged during the recent public debate.
Northern Territory Cattleman's Association president, Rohan Sullivan, said his group would like to remain engaged with the RSPCA in future, so long as the animal welfare group recognised the live export trade’s value and legitimacy.
"There’s certainly a willingness to keep the RSPCA involved in these kinds of discussions about live exports, but ultimately they need to recognise the value and legitimacy of the trade," he said.
"It’s difficult to move forward if your public statements are saying one thing and your private actions are saying something else."