Australia’s livestock exporters have hit back at Animals Australia’s latest campaign against live export stating it is a legal and legitimate industry acting responsibly by striving to meet community animal welfare expectations.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold also said the industry was striving for “zero harm”, while accepting a responsibility to improve its animal welfare practices.
Online campaign for funding
Animals Australia recently launched a new campaign to ban the live animal export industry with bus and billboard advertisements suggesting the trade is a “crime against animals”.
The animal rights group is seeking online donations to a Live Export Fighting Fund to finance what it is calling the biggest live export campaign in history.
The group claims it was promised that live export companies would be punished for breaking the rules. “But for repeat offenders, it’s business-as-usual.”
AA also said it was promised its legal complaints would be investigated and action taken.
“But animals keep suffering.”
“Our investigators have witnessed atrocities across the globe. We’ve worked every angle to force regulations to work for animals.”
Campaign could run till new Federal election
AA said it had consistently exposed live exporters for “abominable cruelty — and we will continue to do so. But quite simply — it’s not enough”.
“Just imagine if every single day, the very politicians who have the power to end this trade, were confronted with the truth of what they are supporting as they drive to work, as they travel to the airport, as they wait at the traffic lights,” an AA promotional blurb says its website.
“Imagine if we could keep the truth about live export on export on high impact billboards and other strategic sites across the country right up until the next Federal election.”
The activist group’s website said it has one of Australia’s top media buyers booking the best locations around the country “to ensure this message is seen by those who most need to take notice”.
“We have the best creative minds driving out the strategic plan for the biggest public campaign against live export we have ever undertaken.”
The group claimed many politicians are already uncomfortable with their party’s support of live export.
“They know that the vast majority of Australians consider it to be immoral and cruel.
“Now they need to know that Australians consider live export a crime that no government or political representative could or should support.”
Live export trade not criminal by nature
However, Ms Penfold said suggesting the live export trade is criminal by nature is wrong.
“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,” she said.
“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 7500 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.”
Trade is investing in animal welfare
Ms Penfold said 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 Federal 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 acknowledges need to prevent incidents
Ms Penfold said the industry acknowledged there has been a number of serious incidents of mistreatment that have caused pain and suffering to the animals involved and it 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,” she said.
“This is over and above the numerous sanctions that have been placed on exporters by the Australian Government.”
Ending trade would not improve welfare – Penfold
Ms Penfold said 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.”
Ms Penfold said there could be significant negative welfare consequences for cattle, sheep and goats left here at home without viable markets if the live trade was banned.
“And without our influence in markets which the international animal health and welfare body (OIE) recognises as world leading, animal welfare outcomes would deteriorate.”
Industry striving for ‘zero harm’
Ms Penfold said that there is no question that Australian exporters will continue to improve the welfare of exported livestock and of 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 indicators 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 see http://auslivestockexport.com/. For more details on the Animals Australia campaign follow this link http://www.animalsaustralia.org/appeal/end-live-export/countmein.php
Sources: ALEC, Animals Australia