Live Export

Industry welcomes mandatory stunning back down

James Nason, 14/10/2011

Australian cattle industry leaders have welcomed this week’s vote by Labor MPs not to extend existing live export animal welfare assurance programs to include mandatory stunning.

Animals Australia and the RSPCA have called for pre-slaughter stunning to be mandated as a minimum welfare measure in all abattoirs in which Australian cattle are killed, both in Australia and off-shore.

Labor MPs voted against the notion in a Caucus vote earlier this week, when a motion calling for mandatory stunning to be introduced from July 2013 was amended to express a “preference for stunning” instead.

Cattle Council of Australia executive director David Inall and AgForce cattle policy director Andrew Simpson told Beef Central this week that the decision by Labor MPs was a sensible one.

“We’re saying we need to focus on the good work that has already gone on in the last few months,” Mr Inall said.

“There has been considerable advancement in abattoir facilities, all through the supply chain, and in the assurance program which the Government and industry have set up.

“To mandate stunning we don’t believe is feasible, we have seen the disruption that has been caused from the cessation of the trade, and the mandating of stunning would only see another major readjustment in the industry and something that is not achievable in the short term.”

Mr Simpson took a similar view, stating that it was important to remain focused on the existing welfare assurance plan recently installed.

“By insisting that it is not mandatory, we can continue the healthy roll of the action that has happened over the last three months over all of our export markets,” Mr Simpson said.

“And that continues the balance of a healthy live export trade, which we believe is very important to the cattle industry of Australia.”

The challenges of introducing stunning to export markets were many and varied, and not limited to issues of cultural, social and religious resistance.

Stunning can be achieved in two ways: with large electrically-powered pneumatic air-compressor systems, or with smaller and less expensive hand-held stun guns which are powered by gun-powder cartridges.

The smaller units hold the key to accelerating the widespread uptake of stunning in Indonesia, but their delivery into the market has been complicated by Indonesian laws that restrict the importation of explosives into the country.

Mr Inall said Elders had recently achieved a breakthrough in its work with the Indonesian Government to secure agreements on acceptable import processes, and large numbers of hand-held stunners were now being sold to importers in the market.

Cattle Council of Australia had also instructed Meat and Livestock Australia to only direct levy funds into the design and support of stunning processes in Indonesia.

Mr Inall said the Four Corners expose of mistreatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs had provided a catalyst to accelerate the improvement of welfare assurance processes in Indonesia, which now included the full traceability of Australian cattle through audited and Australian Government-approved supply chains and abattoirs.

“It is my view that the Australian public should feel very comfortable by what they have seen in Indonesia, and we now need to roll that out over 29 other live export markets,” Mr Inall said.

“Despite the criticism that industry has received, Cattle Council is of the view that a lot of good work has been done over the last 10 years, and a lot of infrastructure has been installed.

“There have been mark I boxes that have been converted to stunning, and Cattle Council is certainly communicating directly to the importing community that stunning is the way of the future.”

Agforce cattle policy director Andrew Simpson said the industry supported the rapid uptake of stunning in all of its markets, but could not impose mandatory authority on its foreign partners.

“As we all know, there is an element of ritual slaughter that is accepted, and we have to understand that these practices aren’t just an overnight flick of the switch.

“We have to be very respectful that these cultures and these requirements and for specific reasons, and indeed on our own home soil, we can’t be seen to be hypocritical, when some of the ritual kill processes happen right here in Australia.

“The uptake of stunning is an adjunct to a lot of things we have to got to put in place, and the priority is ensuring controls along the supply chain are just as functional and just as important as the uptake of stunning.

“And it is really good to see that the Indonesians themselves are taking this on their own behalf with considerable investment at their end supported by ours in taking this up.”

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