A CALL for animal welfare groups to drop their campaigns to shut down the live export trade has been rejected by the RSPCA at the 2017 LIVEXchange conference in Perth.
Immediate past Livecorp chairman David Galvin made the call at the conference yesterday after outlining the difficulties faced by the trade in the past year, but listing its progress since 2011.
He said the last 12 months had been ‘tough and hard’ for importers and exporters, with the high prices of Australian livestock leading to importers looking for alternative protein sources and importing countries looking at domestic breeding programs.
Unfavourable exchange rates and low rainfall in Australia had slowed flock and herd rebuilding efforts, prolonging the tight supply of stock, he said.
“Change in the regulatory environment is continuing with exporters showing adaptability to respond to uncertain new requirements,” Mr Galvin said.
“This means that exporters are now confronted with some of the most difficult economic conditions in the history of the industry.”
He said last year cattle exports declined 27 percent to 835,000 head, with a value of $1.1 billion.
Sheep exports stayed steady at 1.852 million, with a value of $243 million, and most of that had been contributed by the industry in Western Australia, Mr Galvin said. Goat exports went down 63pc, with only 29,000 exported at a value of $4.7 million.
However, even with these challenges, the industry had increased its contribution to Australia’s economy. Live exports supported 10,000 jobs in regional and rural Australia, and contributed $1.4 billion to the Australian economy yearly last year.
Highlighting the industry’s achievements since 2011, he pointed to the training of more than 11,850 people overseas in animal welfare handling and slaughter practices, while mortalities on ships were down below 1pc for sheep and less than that for cattle.
“Ninety five percent of the cattle that go to Indonesia are now stunned before slaughter – this is up from five percent pre-2011,” he said.
He said the Indonesian industry should be proud of this animal welfare outcome, with one million-plus local cattle also being stunned prior to slaughter.
Mr Galvin said in the Middle East between 2-3 million of non-Australian sheep are now being put through abattoirs that practice OIE-ESCAS requirements.
“Since 2011 though, because of the increase in cost in delivering ESCAS in the Middle East, Europe has gone from sending 500,000 sheep per year, to sending 1.8 million sheep and 130,000 cattle a year to the Middle East.
“No animal welfare standards apply to those sheep or cattle; there are no requirements by the EU to look after them, therefore the cost to send them there and process them is much less than for Australian animals.
Mr Galvin said what has been achieved by the industry got no credit from the Greens, Animals Australia or the RSPCA.
“I call on the RSPCA and Animals Australia to work and go to Europe and lobby the European Governments to have the same animal welfare standards applied to their animals that apply to our animals. It’s only fair it’s only just,” he said.
Mr Galvin said the sector should be proud that the pre-eminent world organisation for animal health, the OIE, regarded the Australian live export industry as the greatest contributor to animal health worldwide.
“I also call on the RSPCA to drop its policy to close the industry. In doing so we can work together worldwide to push and assist even better achievements in animal welfare, and in particular I refer to European sheep and cattle going to the Middle East,” he said.
“We can collaborate on programs here in Australia and I look forward to their positive response.”
Industry has long way to go, says RSPCA
However, RSPCA Australia chief executive officer Heather Neil told the conference the live export industry had a long way to go in terms of transparency to get the RSPCA’s approval.
She said it was difficult to be asking for the organisation’s approval, when there wasn’t information being put on the table.
“Whilst ever there are animals being exported from Australia, we want to make sure their welfare is as good as possible, but we also need to see progress in data – data speaks,” she said.
“I think it is interesting that at least some sections of the live export industry want our approval. And to get our approval, from a policy perspective, there isn’t an animal welfare organisation in the world that supports the long distance transport of livestock,” Ms Neil said.
“From a policy perspective, the RSPCA believes that animals should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible.
“There are a lot of abattoirs that animals go past on the way to China and the Middle East.”
Ms Neil said the live export industry also needed to recognise that it needed to ‘lift its game.’
“It has to lift it quickly, it can’t use smoke and mirrors, it can’t say it is really hard to get stunning in the Middle East, so we won’t keep on trying.”
- Sheep Central editor Terry Sim is in Perth covering LIVEXchange for the ‘Centrals.’
There is no industry, be it beef production, egg production or any other rural pursuit which “needs” the approval of the RSPCA. If this charity is allowed to prevail, every animal enterprise will end up paying a levy to be “approved”. Policies of the charity, are just that, policies with no legal application. RSPCA is not about animal welfare, it is about money. If a stand is not taken now, live export will not stop, but RSPCA will take a percentage for every animal loaded onto a boat.
It is high time we as an industry started setting the agenda instead of begging RSPCA and the other crony groups to leave us alone or asking them to jump on board to help us. They have and always will have one agenda and that is to stop live exporta and once they acheive that they will target livestock production. Stop bowing to them and lets get on with what we do best obviously in a humane manner that we should all aspire to anyway. We don’t need their blessing because no government would dare stop the trade again. The more we cowtow to those groups the more we are weakend.
I think the Live export industry is extremely upfront with data and statistics, such as information that can be found on the Live corp site and DAFF. The fact that the government reports are made publicly available in such detail I think is very upfront in regards to transparency. Heck! we can’t even get a foreign owned business to report correctly on slaughter numbers in Australia to give accurate kill numbers to the industry, The details available on LE are far better than anything available on Australian export or domestic slaughter. Back on to LE I assume RSPCA are too focused on mortality rates on ships, surely they can’t argue that a consistency of less than 0.15% for beef cattle shouldn’t be commended. I find it ironic when RSPCA wants to focus on the integrity of Australian live export when in regards to other industries they seem to turn a blind eye. Such as the mortality rate of free range chickens is over double digits, yet when caged, is less than 5% in a news article I read last year. RSPCA’s name is plastered over most free range egg cartons these days. If it is data that RSPCA are concerned about then surely animal welfare regulations into Australian domestic cats and dogs should be looked at. RSPCA received nearly 63,000 complaints in 15/16 yet only managed 250 prosecutions. Actually for the last 10 years or so RSPCA has only managed 0.6% of 1 percent success rate in prosecutions against complaints made. I find that astounding! I think RSPCA should swallow their pride and accept that live export is an important competition factor in the livestock industry and it has lifted its game. Much to RSPCA’s annoyance. It should be commended that LE has continued to ensure improvements even during times which have been very difficult for them. I suggest that if RSPCA want to be involved let alone respected in livestock industry matters they take a very hard look at their policies or they won’t even be ‘in the game’ to start with.