Australia’s livestock exporters have responded to an animal rights campaign saying that not only is it a legal and legitimate industry, it is also acting responsibly by striving to meet community animal welfare expectations.
A campaign to ban the live animal export industry has been launched with bus and billboard advertisements by Animals Australia suggesting the trade is a “crime against animals”.
Alison Penfold, CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council said: “We have heard loud and clear that we must show Australia that we are improving the welfare of Australian exported livestock, but suggesting the trade is criminal by nature is simply wrong.
“Australian exporters have always respected the laws governing the trade but clearly the way animals were being treated in the footage of 2011 fell well below Australian community standards. Since that time industry has come a long way with reforms, new regulatory parameters extending exporter responsibility onto foreign soil, investment in new and improved infrastructure and the training of over 7,500 workers overseas in animal handling, husbandry and slaughter which has seen Australia lead animal welfare standards among about 100 livestock exporting nations.
“We all want the humane treatment of livestock but we do not accept that banning the Australian live trade is the way to achieve it.
“Rather than spending money on billboards and buses as a means to improve animal welfare, Australian live exporters and their customers are investing in people and livestock facilities around the world to ensure the welfare of livestock in our charge through practical on-the-ground training and improvements in handling, husbandry and slaughter practices.
“Significant improvements have already been made as demonstrated in the ESCAS Report released by the Government last week, including the increased use of pre-slaughter stunning and modernisation of restraint and slaughter equipment.
“We know we are not done yet and will continue to implement improvements to our practices and infrastructure by working constructively with our customers and facility operators that handle Australian livestock.
“Industry has also been upfront in acknowledging that despite the significant improvements made in the welfare of exported livestock, there has been a number of serious incidents of mistreatment that have caused pain and suffering to the animals involved and that we must do better to prevent further incidents.
“Brutal treatment of livestock – like the tying up of the bull pictured in the current advertising campaign – has no place in the Australian live trade and will not be tolerated. Industry has taken action including the sacking of staff, removing facilities access to further consignments of Australian livestock and suspending whole markets where appropriate in response to cruel and improper handling and slaughter. This is over and above the numerous sanctions that have been placed on exporters by the Australian Government.
“Animals Australia’s call to ban the live trade as the only solution fails to take account of the real consequences a ban would impose – that is – obliterating a billion dollar plus industry and the livelihood of thousands of people.
“Their approach also fails to address the other real dilemma – that a ban of the trade would not improve animal welfare.
“Australian markets would go to exporters who don’t invest in welfare, don’t train staff in livestock humane handling, don’t consider the health and welfare needs of livestock on trucks and vessels, don’t work to any welfare standards and who don’t strive for continuous improvement.
“We could see significant negative welfare consequences for cattle, sheep and goats left here at home without viable markets.
“And without our influence in markets which the international animal health and welfare body (OIE) recognises as world leading, animal welfare outcomes would deteriorate.
Ms Penfold said that there is no question that Australian exporters will continue to improve the welfare of exported livestock, and indeed local livestock in markets as well.
“Getting better welfare is not just about compliance for industry. We are striving for zero harm, and while we are not perfect in the face of significant challenges we do accept responsibility to improve.
“We are also investing in a wide range of animal welfare related research including independent research into welfare indictors along the entire live export supply chain to objectively monitor and report on industry welfare performance, and utilise the data to help guide further change.
“Our message to Australians who might see this latest Animals Australia campaign is that the live trade has made positive progress in the treatment of exported livestock, the industry’s focus and effort is on continuous improvement but a ban would turn back the clock on animal welfare and have serious negative consequences for Australia, Australians and global standards.”
For more information on the changes to animal welfare implemented by Australian exporters in export markets, please visit http://localhost/ALEI/site/ and watch the video in the Animal Welfare Quick Links section.
Media contact: Alison Penfold, CEO, Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council – email@example.com or 0408 633 026.