THE Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) says it welcomes political discussion about live exports as an opportunity to showcase that nation’s global leadership role in boosting animal welfare standards.
ALEC spoke out today as NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon praised Brazil for banning its live animal export trade saying Australia should follow.
However, reports say the Brazilian move has been short-lived with their government winning a court decision to overturn an injunction obtained by an animal rights group that halted a shipment of 27,000 cattle destined for Turkey due to animal cruelty concerns.
That has now cleared to leave port after the Brazil government showed their practices complied with World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) rules.
Senator Rhiannon said the Brazil Federal Court’s decision to suspend live exports for animal welfare reasons “puts the Australian government to shame”.
“The Brazil Federal Court has clearly accepted there is a serious enough case for this company to answer regarding animal suffering to warrant suspension of live cattle exports from Brazil,” she said.
“The Greens have a five point plan to transition away from the cruel live export trade where thousands upon thousands of animals die suffering deaths in transit, and at the end of that journey where terrified animals are mistreated in sometimes horrific ways.
“We need to be supporting our own local industries and rural towns where economic analysis shows that the live export trade has cannibalised local abattoirs and rural jobs for profits overseas.
“The Greens End Live Export Bill is still before the Senate.
“If the Nationals care about rural jobs they would back a transition to an end of the live export trade, the construction of more local abattoirs and the expansion of the boxed, chilled meat export trade.”
But ALEC said, in response to a similar bill proposed by Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie last year, that it welcomed political discussion about the live trade because it was a “chance to highlight the world-leading welfare role Australian livestock exporters play on a global scale, and Australia’s record of ongoing improvement”.
An ALEC spokesperson said that Australian livestock exporters continued to demonstrate their “genuine commitment to the care, wellbeing and welfare of exported livestock at all times, within a fully accountable and transparent regulatory system”.
“Our trade is driven by increasing global demand for quality live animals as a source of protein and Australia’s hard-earned reputation as a reliable trading partner and our unmatched supply chain expertise and professionalism,” a statement said.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said it didn’t comment on the decisions of foreign governments and courts around their own systems.
But a statement said Australia was the only one of more than 100 countries that export live animals that requires World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) welfare standards to be met as a minimum for exported livestock.
“Our aim is to consistently improve animal welfare outcomes, and we have, through a strong regulatory system and work the Australian industry is undertaking offshore to help train and support workers in foreign markets,” it said.
Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan took a swipe at the Greens over trying to ban live exports, last night during Senate debate on a Bill to streamline and consolidate existing legislation for regulating the export of agricultural commodities.
He said there were about 100 countries exporting live animal product in varying degrees of volume across world borders and Australia was “proudly at the forefront of best practice when it comes to managing the movement of livestock”.
“We follow the livestock all the way to processing to see that world's best practices are maintained,” he said.
“In fact, we committed a long time ago to putting in place world's best practices and we now comply with world standards, one of the few countries that can make that declaration.”
But Senator O’Sullivan said, in reference to the Greens, “there are those who don't ever want to see any live exports” and “they don't understand the industry”.
“They don't understand the impacts this (a trade ban) could have on domestic production,” he said.
“These people don't want us to grow wheat or cotton, yet they refuse to stand naked in this place or anywhere else in their cotton clothes.
“They don't want to move around bare foot (but) they've got leather shoes on.
“They remind me of the story of the little red hen.”
Senator O’Sullivan said the fact that Australia followed livestock, through regulation, to the point of slaughter in exports markets, so the $1.8 billion industry was done in a humane and healthy manner, would “eventually be one of the sharpest edges some of our exporters have”.
“It's not only about how they're produced but how they're transported, how they're moved to port, how they're loaded, how they fare on the ships, how they're received and how they're cared for at the other end, all the way to a point of humane slaughter,” he said.
“I've seen some of the resisters of this process, in their leather shoes and cotton trousers with their woollen coats, sitting down, hoeing into a big steak.
“And only the day before, of course, they were somewhere under a placard saying: 'Let's not kill animals. We shouldn't keep cattle in a yard. We shouldn't do this; we shouldn't do that’.”
Senator O’Sullivan said people questioned live exports saying it was better to sell chilled beef into export markets but it wasn’t practical because a major beef export market like Indonesia had 250 million people but “virtually nobody owns a fridge”.
“We don't know what they're going to do with the chilled beef,” he said.
“Those of you who've been through Indonesia, the Philippines and many of these developing Asian neighbours we rely upon for trade relations, will know that you'll see cattle and chickens tied up under coconut trees and banana trees.
“That's where they'll remain until such time as they are processed for personal consumption by the people in the village or a community.
“No longer can we say to people, 'We have a commodity,' and jam it into their marketplace on our terms.
“Those days have been gone for decades.
“Now they're looking for the providence of the product.
“They're looking for these issues - for the ticks around animal health care, transportation, impacts on the environment and labour arrangements for people who are working to produce these articles.
“They are setting very high standards to be met in the market sphere that we are in.”
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