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Live Exporters Focused on Improving Welfare Standards and Practice

22 May 2014

Claims by RSPCA today that a review by Government highlight fundamental problems with live exports are wrong and ignore the fact that Australia is an active global leader in developing and improving welfare standards and practices for the trade, the CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Alison Penfold said today.

“Live exporters are fundamentally attuned to the health and welfare of livestock as it is a vital component of industry profitability and sustainability,” Ms Penfold said.

“No other nation of exporters has placed more focus on the development and implementation of welfare standards along the export supply chain than Australia. Australia is the only country to have welfare standards at each point along the supply chain from on farm preparation to point of slaughter and we are focused through our extensive research and development program to ensure these standards continually provide good animal welfare through solid and well researched science.

“This year the industry funded Live Export Program will invest $5.2 million in a range of animal health and welfare projects, with $5.329 million committed for 2014/15.

“That investment is intended to address a range of issues that will assist industry and Government better understand the science that underpins welfare standards, including areas in the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) – which cover the live export process from on farm preparation to discharge – where RSPCA has been so critical in its media statement today.

“While RSPCA have today mocked the Australian Government for its decision to pursue an alternative pathway to improve the ASEL standards, industry will work within the Government’s decision.

“We too wish to see changes to ASEL, but those changes must have a strong foundations in science and not on some conceptual idea of what good animal welfare is.

“While we found common ground with RSPCA and other review participants on many issues on ASEL, a number of proposals put forward by RSPCA involved perverting industry research, would worsen welfare outcomes, lacked a practical understanding of livestock management and behaviour or were proposals that had no scientific justification.

“In most cases their proposals would make the trade uneconomical or uncompetitive without any real benefit to animal welfare. While this may suit RSPCA ambition to shut down the live trade, it has little to do with actually achieving good welfare outcomes for Australian livestock here or abroad.

“By way of example, RSPCA’s claims about stocking densities are incorrect, demonstrate a lack of practical understanding of animal behaviour and manipulate animal welfare motives to make the trade unviable.

“Industry commissioned CSIRO research to undertake the first on-board experiments to examine the animal welfare outcomes of varying stocking densities found there were negligible differences in weight gain, lying time or the health and mortality of livestock at different densities (including the current standard, and plus and minus 10%). Based on these findings, the report concluded that the current ASEL densities – which are minimum standards – are appropriate.

“The findings of the report and the continually low or decreasing mortality rates for livestock exports suggests that the current stocking densities are achieving an appropriate balance between the different factors that could influence animal welfare outcomes.

“In a further example, cattle do not lie on a handful of sawdust – bedding requirements are more extensive and include regular cleaning and wash downs of pens. Industry is also undertaking a project to develop a best practice bedding manual for exporters which would not only benefit the Australian trade but also improve bedding on vessels globally where standards currently do not exist.

“Industry has however not ignored all the proposals put forward by RSPCA and we have been undertaking further analysis to identify areas where consensus may be able to be reached.

“In my discussions with RSPCA, I have indicated that this work would be a good basis on which we could work together and potentially go to government with solutions for changes to ASEL rather than wait for Government to come to us.

“But for me to make this work, RSPCA need to stop shouting like activists, and started acting like welfarists. That includes ending their competition with other activist groups on who can make the most misleading, false and extremist claims about the trade,” Ms Penfold said.

Ends

Contact: Alison Penfold 0408 633 026

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