RSPCA Australia has submitted a 21,000 signature petition to the federal parliament seeking to thwart a form of livestock export trade that is yet to start.
The petition was tabled in parliament earlier this month as part of a pre-emptive strike to block live exports of Australian horses, ponies and donkeys for slaughter, RSPCA said.
“This is a trade that should never happen yet it’s something that the Australian government has seriously been considering,” said RSPCA Senior Policy Officer Jed Goodfellow in an online video clip highlighting the petition submitted by independent Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch.
But RSPCA said it also welcomed the May 2017 statement by the Australian Live Exporters’ Council, that the Council and its members were “neither seeking nor supportive of any such trade commencing”.
RSPCA said it understood inquiries had been made to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, about the Chinese demand for equine products.
However, the Department said it had received some enquiries about the export of equines for slaughter but “has not received any applications to date”.
“Enquiries about potential trade opportunities are commercial in confidence,” a spokesperson said.
“The Australian government currently has no agreements in place for the export of live equines for slaughter to any country.”
But the Department said each year a large number of equines are transported both to and from Australia for breeding, racing and equestrian purposes in a trade that started more than 100 years ago.
“There is an average of 2600 equines exported in 370 consignments per year,” the spokesperson said.
“The Department does not keep information on mortalities or injuries during transport for equines - these are usually valuable sports or breeding animals which are individually transported.
“This trade started more than one century ago.
“The Australian Thoroughbred Industry report that Australian horses were exported to the Indian army from the 1830s to 1930s and thoroughbred horses were exported to Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong from the early 1890s.”
RSPCA said – of the Chinese demand for equine products – that pony, horse and donkey meat is eaten, while donkey skin is dried and ground up to make a gelatine-based substance called ‘ejiao’, which is used by people who believe it is good for their appearance and vitality.
“The Chinese ejiao trade has had a devastating impact on donkey populations around the world, including some of the most vulnerable countries in African and South American regions,” RSPCA said.
“RSPCA Australia will continue working with the Australian government to ensure such a trade does not occur.”
In June, NSW Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm accused RSPCA Australia of “cultural imperialism” in raising public fears and warnings about the potential live export of Australian horses and donkeys for slaughter, in overseas markets.
But the petition handed to Senator Hinch called on the Australian government to expressly prohibit the live export of all equines for the purposes of slaughter and reject any initiatives that would facilitate the development of a live export trade in horses, ponies, or donkeys for slaughter.
It read, ‘Horses, ponies, and donkeys are highly sensitive animals that would suffer tremendously if subjected to the stressors of live export for slaughter in foreign countries. On 24 May 2017, during Senate Estimates hearings, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources confirmed that it had received a number of inquiries for the export of horses and donkeys “in large numbers for slaughter”. The Department further confirmed that it was developing policy that would facilitate such a trade. If such a trade was to commence it would lead to the suffering of many thousands of Australian horses, ponies, and donkeys as they would be sent overseas to be slaughtered for their skin and meat. This would be unethical and highly unacceptable to the Australian community.’
The petition also urged the Senate to call upon the Australian government to; strongly condemn and reject any bills, legislative instruments, or government initiatives that would facilitate the development of a live export trade in horses, ponies, or donkeys for slaughter; support any bills, legislative instruments, or government initiatives that would prohibit the live export of horses, ponies, and donkeys; and do everything else in its power to prevent the export of horses, ponies, and donkeys for the purposes of slaughter.