The Australian live export industry’s review and action plan process has been more than 12 months in the making, but its release this week could not be more timely.
The industry is expected to come under intense pressure to demonstrate its commitment to animal welfare standards in coming weeks.
Activist group Animals Australia is believed to have supplied ABC’s Four Corners program with video footage showing Australian cattle being processed in Indonesian abattoirs.
While the live export industry maintains that the vast majority of Indonesian processing facilties employ appropriate processing standards, a small number of abattoirs do not.
When 60 Minutes aired footage of Australian cattle being subjected to shocking treatment in a Cairo abattoir in February 2006, the resulting public backlash prompted the Federal Government to immediately suspend Australia’s live cattle trade to Egypt.
The trade was closed for more than two years and reopened in 2008 only after the Australian and Egyptian Governments signed protocols guaranteeing that live exports would operate under a closed system.
The protocols required that any Australian cattle exported to the market could only be fed and processed in best-practice facilities inspected by Australian authorities.
Prior to its suspension Australia’s live trade to Egypt grew to 200,000 head per year .
A similar result in a major market the size of Indonesia, which took more than 400,000 cattle last year and was worth $319 million to Australia’s economy, could be catastrophic for Australia’s cattle industry.
The Four Corners report on the live cattle trade to Indonesia is expected to air on Monday, May 30.