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Activist inducements won’t distract from reform

Comment by the Hon Simon Crean

My agreement in 2014 to chair the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council was conditional on the commitment by industry to significant and ongoing improvement in animal welfare practices.

The Awassi Express incident in 2017 was shocking and inexcusable. Without a doubt, it did set the industry back.

But the incident and the footage arising from it has not deterred us from our commitment to continuous improvement. In fact, it hastened our determination.

As independent chair of ALEC I have seen first-hand livestock exporters make significant progress:

  • As an industry, we continue to invest significant exporter and producer funds into science-based solutions, including the development of animal welfare indicators that embrace a shift away from mortality as a measure of a voyage’s success
  • We also invest exporter and producer funds into training programs and in-market infrastructure that improves welfare outcomes and transparency. Key to this is developing the world-leading Livestock Global Assurance Program that sets international standards for live animal exports
  • We have endorsed a mandatory code of conduct for ALEC members, with tough sanctioning for any breach of the code
  • ALEC has established an independent Ethics Committee
  • We have also called for an Independent Inspector of Animal Exports
  • Specifically, in response to the Awassi incident, ALEC has introduced a three-month moratorium on sheep shipments to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer
  • Since May, the live sheep trade has operated under new stocking density requirements which have been overseen by independent observers on board, whose reports are confirming animals are being transported in a way which upholds their wellbeing

We have nothing to hide, and we embrace greater transparency. We welcome independent assessment of those improved animal welfare practices.

Last week allegations emerged that Animals Australia has been paying crew members for on-board footage.

Animals Australia has not refuted the allegations, despite going on the public record last year denying payment for any footage.

Let’s be clear; if activists offer to pay for footage, they create a market in animal cruelty.

We welcome Minister Littleproud’s announcement that a federal investigation will take place and look forward to the outcomes because there are significant questions need to be answered. If Animals Australia is complicit, it must be held accountable to government and its many benefactors.

After months of having our industry’s reputation criticised – including calls by The Weekly Times to end the live sheep trade – we make no apologies for continuing to defend the trade’s integrity and to reaffirm the genuine care we have for the animals in our supply chains.

We will not waver in our commitment to Australia’s ongoing leadership role in a sustainable, ethical global livestock export industry.


(This commentary was written for The Weekly Times and published in print and online on January 23, 2019)