Greens throw live exports under a bus in election push

Jon Condon, June 2, 2016

THE Greens last night released a Federal election policy detailing a five-point plan intended to lead to the phasing-out of live cattle and sheep exports from Australia.

The document claims 150 meat processing plants have closed and 40,000 meatworker jobs have been lost over last 30 years, squarely aligning that trend with the rise in livestock exports.

Claiming the live trade is ‘inherently cruel’, the Greens document suggests Australia can provide a more economically robust and humane alternative to the live trade by boosting boxed meat exports, ‘creating thousands of jobs’ across regional Australia.

The Greens make no secret of the fact they are working with animal activist/liberation groups in the live export policy space.

They have floated a plan that identifies five key issues they say governments should undertake to transition away from the live trade, to support Australia’s domestic meat processing sector:

  • Supporting development of new meat processing facilities in northern Australia
  • Lobbying for an end to subsidies and tariffs that favour the live export trade in importing countries – and put more resources into promoting boxed meat into markets
  • Working with unions and industry to attract and train indigenous & other workers to the meat processing industry
  • Re-prioritising R&D investment to transition farmers and sector to domestic processing industry
  • Establishing new divisions within Ag Department and Austrade to drive closure of live exports and expansion of boxed meat trade.

“Evidence shows Australia’s minimal live export welfare regulations do not work, with Australia losing any control of conditions once the animals leave our shores,” the policy document says.

“There is overwhelming public demand for humane and accountable treatment of animals and an end to this inherently cruel commercial trade. However Australian governments continue to sanction the cruelty by refusing to change woefully inadequate minimum animal welfare standards and making industries transparent and accountable.”

The Greens claim to be are the only federal parliamentary party to have a specific portfolio responsibility for animal welfare.

“We are deeply committed to improving the welfare and wellbeing of animals, and will continue working with Australia’s animal welfare and rights organisations to achieve this,” they said.

Much of The Greens’ evidence of cruelty flies in the face of generally-accepted views about on-board conditions faced by livestock in transit.

“Long sea voyages are a horrendous experience for stressed and frightened animals, with journeys lasting up to 25-35 days if stopping at various ports. Thousands of cramped animals endure ship motion with its noise and vibrations, high levels of ammonia, lying down in their own urine and faeces, high temperatures and humidity, illness, injuries, exhaustion and malnourishment or starvation when they don’t eat the pellets provided having been grazing in paddocks previously,” the policy document says.

“All these factors add to their already often stressed long journeys from farms to the port. Over 2.1 million sheep have died during the long sea voyage from Australia in the past 10 years alone,” it says.

The Greens claim the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System introduced in 2011 did not work.

“The ESCAS is supposed to make exporters legally accountable for ensuring Australian animals remain within approved supply chains. However there is no government oversight in importing countries and the scheme is self-monitoring. Blatant disregard of regulations by exporters and importers continues, causing suffering for our exported livestock,” they said.

“Between 2011 and 2015 at least 40 legal complaints about horrific treatment of animals were lodged with the Department of Agriculture with over 100 ESCAS breaches lodged in total since 2012. Despite extensive evidence of ongoing breaches and failures no export company has been prosecuted by the government.”

Job losses in processing

The Greens say the live export industry has caused the loss of thousands of jobs as abattoirs in northern Australia had been forced to close.

Previous reports from Western Australia and Queensland had indicated that the live export industry was directly responsible for seriously damaging the meat processing sector, they claimed.

“Despite this, the domestic processing industry is now the largest manufacturing workforce in Australia after the demise of the domestic auto manufacturing, with about 55,000 workers across the industry nationwide, and at least the same number again in ancillary services directly dependent on the meat processing/export sector.”

“With drought across Australian states, the Australian national cattle herd is sitting at its lowest level in 23 years and is predicted to fall even further. This is causing downward pressure on the number of cattle available to domestic processors, with the live export trade poaching those available cattle and further risking local abattoir jobs,” The Green claimed.

“However Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce recently ignored the importance of these Australian workers by announcing he would do everything in his power to grow the live export industry.”

Economic research shows domestic processing of livestock is worth more to the Australian economy per animal than live exports. For example a sheep processed in Australian abattoirs is worth 20pc more to the Australian economy than one exported live.”

The Greens have made a number of unsuccessful attempts (most recently in 2014) to introduce their Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill, which if passed, would end live exports from Australia. It has been soundly defeated each time.

They claim both Labor and the Liberal/National Party support growing the live export trade, despite the trade’s “cruelty and proven damage to Australian jobs.”

ALEC response

The Australian Live Exporters Council issued a brief response this morning:

“We acknowledge the release of the policy but remain disappointed that it has been developed in the absence of any dialogue with the Australian livestock export industry, which includes not only exporters but other stakeholders we work alongside like producers and the livestock transport sector.

It should be noted that the live trade employs over 13,000 people, many in rural and regional Australia where there are few alternative opportunities.  It is also one of Australia’s top 10 agricultural exports and its significance goes now beyond just the economic returns to the nation but also to welfare improvements in 21 countries around the world. 

Any policy that seeks to close down an important industry like ours should come after significant and extensive consultation with affected parties. This has not occurred, but the door remains open should the Greens wish to engage with ALEC. We would like to have the opportunity to share with them the journey that the trade is on to improve welfare, that progress is being made but that we acknowledge we still have more work to do.” 


Click here to read the Greens policy document in full.




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