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Livex Council responds to Wilkie bill

by Alison Penfold, chief executive officer, Australian Livestock Exporters Council, 17 May 2013

 

I am disappointed that Mr Wilkie remains ignorant to the true impact of a phase out or ban of the livestock export trade.

People in industry and those who have opened their eyes to the consequences of such a decision, know the full and adverse impacts it would have on people, on jobs, on communities, on Australia and on our trading partners.

If at the heart of the ban is a view that shutting down the industry will improve animal welfare, then it is important to understand that Australia's withdrawal from the market will mean weaker global animal welfare standards for exported livestock.  Australia is the only country out of 100 countries that is investing in animal welfare in our export markets and our withdrawal from the market would quickly see our share absorbed by others who neither invest in animal welfare nor require the strict controls that we do.

If the proposal for a ban is based on economic agenda – then the facts provided by Mr Wilkie do not stand up to scrutiny.

  • At the most elementary level there are no impediments reducing private sector investment in meat processing in Australia other than commercial factors. Or is Mr Wilkie asking the government to take money out of roads,schools and hospitals to fund abattoirs?
  • If Australia closed the live export trade there would not be a corresponding increase in the sale of chilled and frozen meat – This idea that the customers will shift to boxed or chilled product is not backed up by history.
  • Closing the trade would shut down trading opportunities for producers and slash returns to producers – Wilkie seems to support cruelling producers is acceptable – we do not;  
  • It is important to remember that the live export industry has introduced a greater diversity of markets to which Australian meat is exported – the benefits of this were seen from the demand drop-off in key markets for chilled and frozen products during the global financial crisis; 
  • Likewise, the growth in US exports to key markets following the BSE concerns highlights the growing competitive pressures that Australian exporters of processed meats will face and the need to maintain a diversity of markets.

The best way to maximize returns to producers and to Australia is to have strong meat processing sector and a strong live export sector.  This does not need to be an either or proposition.

Wilkie also claims that the trade is opposed by the majority of Australians. 

Again, he is wrong.  I give the Australian community far more credit than he does that they understand the economic and welfare drivers of the livestock export trade.  Let me remind Mr Wilkie that in the most recent conversation with the Australian people about the livestock trade undertaken by the NFF last year:-

  • Two thirds of respondents supported continuing the live export trade, rather than banning it or phasing it out and, of these, three quarters held that opinion strongly.
  • When asked if they would be pleased or concerned if their MP supported a ban or phase out, 60 percent said they would be concerned and only 22 percent would be pleased.
  • Among all voters, 44 percent said they would definitely or probably vote against their MP were a ban or phase-out implemented.

I make this final point. I am astounded that an elected representative would choose to see the worst in Australians and the worst in humanity. No one finds cruelty acceptable and no one profits from it. Yet he has the audacity to claim that the trade is systemically cruel. We have seen some horrendous cases of animals cruelty here in Australia – the turkey processing plant comes to mind yet I do not here him calling for a ban.

RSPCA investigates over 55,000 cases of animal abuse each year here in Australia, yet I do not here him calling for a ban.  I fear that tone of condemnation, its impact on how our trading partners view us and what it
says about Mr Wilkie's real agenda.

The livestock export industry understands its responsibilities and obligations to be vigilant on animal welfare and to continue to invest in people, the people who handle livestock on a daily basis.  What you don't do and you won't do to improve animal welfare globally is slamming the trade shut, cruelling thousands of jobs, families and communities in Australia, and walking away from direct and lasting training, support and investment in animal welfare being made by the livestock industry using industry funds in our markets. 

I fear that were Australia to do so, many countries would also walk away from us.

 

 



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