“Significant improvements have been made in animal welfare but there is more work to do to satisfy ourselves and our critics as we build a sustainable and profitable industry that continues to contribute to jobs and national economic growth, that is the live export industry’s assessment of its performance since the 2011 trade ban, the CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Alison Penfold said today.
Ms Penfold said that 2011 and the events of the time were a massive wake up call for all industry participants and will always be a marker of our past and future performance.
“Livestock exporters were put on notice five years ago to fix and improve the treatment, handling and slaughter of exported Australian livestock,” Ms Penfold said.
“While the ban was a crude and abrupt approach to implement increased control over the trade in the absence of industry accountability and transparency, the outcome has placed the Australian livestock export trade on a more sustainable and responsible pathway – one that we are not complacent about.
“Every day since 2011 exporters have worked hard to implement their far reaching responsibilities for animal welfare along the supply chain to the point of slaughter.
“While ESCAS has been the regulatory platform for action, it is the work of exporters, customers and their staff and Australian and locally based animal welfare trainers that has had the most impact. Over 9,000 people have been trained in handling and slaughter practices in 23 markets, millions have been spent by exporters and our overseas customers in new infrastructure and equipment including stunners, restraining boxes, and yards, removal of old unsuitable equipment like Mark 1 boxes, and Animal Welfare Officers and Supply Chain Managers are now in facilities to oversee the day to day wellbeing and welfare of livestock in market.
“Despite this, we acknowledge that over the past five years our implementation of ESCAS has at times been found wanting and where animals have suffered in this process we are truly sorry.
“As individuals and as an industry we are genuinely committed to the care, wellbeing and welfare of all exported livestock at all times and genuinely working to improve what we do and how we do it. There are significant challenges to implementing change on the revolutionary scale of ESCAS particularly where there are cultural and business differences.
“We know our critics want us to do more and move more quickly than has been possible because of the scope of the change required and the nature of it. They view our failure to do so as a failure of any genuine commitment to change and improve animal welfare.
“This is certainly not the case as one of the most fundamental changes that we can report after five years is that getting our animal welfare issues right is increasingly at the core of our business and it’s widely recognised it’s ‘good business’ to get it right.
“Continual improvement in our practices means investing in activities that look to ways of improving animal welfare and supporting regulatory reform – such as supporting changes to modernise the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock and utilising new more modern vessels to transport livestock.
“The industry’s research and development program of over 30 projects is critical to us achieving our welfare ambitions with areas of focus on the causes of mortality on board vessels, the development of animal welfare indicators to enable better monitoring and responsiveness to problem welfare areas and the development of a new and improved ESCAS called the Livestock Global Assurance Program.
“As one of Australia’s top ten agricultural exports worth over $1.8 billion to Australia’s GDP, employing over 13,000 people across the country and contributing to global welfare improvement, we are working to balance our obligations to the welfare of livestock in our care and our contribution to rural and regional, indeed national jobs, growth and prosperity.
“We have learned from the past and we are working hard to build a sustainable future.”
Contact: Alison Penfold – 0408 633 026