Livestock export discussion can’t overlook industry progress

THE Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council notes that a new book entitled ‘Backlash – Australia’s conflict of values over live exports’ is being launched in Canberra today.

“Livestock exporters welcome informed discussion about the industry and know the importance of operating transparently and in line with community expectations wherever possible,” ALEC CEO Alison Penfold said.

“I understand that the ‘rear view mirror’ focus on the trade – referring to 2011 – is a comfort spot for those opposed to our industry. Our performance at the time was not our finest and despite in-market efforts to improve welfare and the regulatory settings in place in 2011, we should have done more to ensure better treatment of livestock.

“I also understand that recognition of the improvements made since 2011 is difficult for trade’s opponents to accept, especially when those improvements confound entrenched beliefs and defy claims that the industry is incapable of listening, responding and changing.

“As an industry, we are focused on the future and embedding better practices along the supply chain.  This is no easy feat and Australia stands alone out of the 100-plus livestock exporting nations in taking responsibility for animal welfare through to the point of slaughter. Our efforts have lifted the standard of animal welfare practices in over 1000 overseas abattoirs and feedlots so that the facilities now meet or exceed international animal welfare standards.

“There are now another 8000-plus people who practice better handling, treatment and slaughter techniques because we have worked with them, invested in them, and trained them to handle Australian livestock with respect.

“There is better equipment in facilities and almost 90 per cent of abattoirs in Indonesia now use stunning. In 2011, that figure was closer to 15pc.

“An open and informed public debate is healthy, and any truly comprehensive investigation on the livestock export industry would include insights from those families, small businesses and livestock professionals whose livelihoods depend on the viability of the trade and have worked hard to make the significant improvements in animal welfare, both here and overseas.

“Any real in-depth investigation would include insights from our trading partners in Indonesia and across South East Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Russia, the local villagers whose livelihoods depend greatly on live cattle, sheep and goats from Australia not only as a source of protein, but as a source of income through breeding programs or employment at local feedlots and abattoirs.”

Ms Penfold said that while Australia’s livestock industry would not shy away from its past, exporters and producers were proud of the way the industry is focused on continual improvement and sustainability.

“Through LiveCorp and Meat & Livestock Australia, our industry is currently involved with more than 30 research projects in conjunction with the Federal Government, the great majority of which are focused on improving animal welfare standards,” Ms Penfold said.

“This research agenda ranges from ways to better prepare livestock for export, to on-board management, through to the point of slaughter and everywhere in between along the supply chain. We are even developing a world-first welfare assurance certification program that, if implemented, could be the first time any abattoir or livestock facility anywhere in the world could be certified to at least international animal welfare standards.

“This system would potentially not just help Australian exporters better demonstrate compliance with Australian regulations, it could also protect animals from other countries which do not enjoy the welfare protections as provided by Australia’s laws and our commitment to making animal welfare a condition of trade.

“Australia’s livestock exporters are providing international leadership by pushing ahead with initiatives which will help modernise and professionalise industry standards. We are setting the global standard in terms of supply chain transparency and animal welfare measures.

“We are far from complacent and are more energised than ever to keep working to strengthen the trade. With this in mind, we are grateful for the support of both the Federal Coalition Government and the Labor Opposition who acknowledge our progress and the legitimacy and global importance of our industry.”

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council was not invited to contribute to the book.

PDF version: ALEC Statement ‘Backlash’ book 01032016