Live Export

Live exporters reject RSPCA claims on standards

Beef Central, 22/05/2014

Claims by RSPCA that a Government review has highlighted fundamental problems with live exports are wrong and ignore the fact that Australia is an active global leader in developing and improving welfare standards and practices for the trade, the chief executive officer of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC), Alison Penfold said today.

The RSPCA issued a media release on Wednesday afternoon (published in full below) demanding immediate government action to expedite changes to Australia’s live export standards in the wake of a report which it said highlighted serious deficiencies in the current regulatory system.

The RSPCA said the report emanated from a review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock two years ago, but which has been shelved since. It said it forced the publication of the report this week under Freedom of Information legislation.

“The report clearly shows many aspects of the current standards require urgent action, yet Minister Joyce has ignored this issue for months,” said Dr Bidda Jones, Chief Scientist RSPCA Australia.

“The review shows that current standards are failing to ensure people handling animals are aware of their legal responsibilities and have the competency to carry them out, and are allowing animals that are sick, injured or otherwise unfit to slip through the inspection process.

“Failure to progress these important changes means that current standards fall far short of best practice or developments in animal welfare science,” said Dr Jones.

Over 2.3 million animals have been exported since the report was submitted.”

In response the Australian Livestock Exporters Association said the RSPCA continued to ignore the work and millions of dollars invested by the livestock export industry on animal welfare in its public statements about the industry.

“Live exporters are fundamentally attuned to the health and welfare of livestock as it is a vital component of industry profitability and sustainability,” Ms Penfold said.

“No other nation of exporters has placed more focus on the development and implementation of welfare standards along the export supply chain than Australia. Australia is the only country to have welfare standards at each point along the supply chain from on farm preparation to point of slaughter and we are focused through our extensive research and development program to ensure these standards continually provide good animal welfare through solid and well researched science.

“This year the industry funded Live Export Program will invest $5.2 million in a range of animal health and welfare projects, with $5.329 million committed for 2014/15.

“That investment is intended to address a range of issues that will assist industry and Government better understand the science that underpins welfare standards, including areas in the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) – which cover the live export process from on farm preparation to discharge – where RSPCA has been so critical in its media statement today.

“While RSPCA have today mocked the Australian Government for its decision to pursue an alternative pathway to improve the ASEL standards, industry will work within the Government’s decision.

“We too wish to see changes to ASEL, but those changes must have a strong foundations in science and not on some conceptual idea of what good animal welfare is.

“While we found common ground with RSPCA and other review participants on many issues on ASEL, a number of proposals put forward by RSPCA involved perverting industry research, would worsen welfare outcomes, lacked a practical understanding of livestock management and behaviour or were proposals that had no scientific justification.

“In most cases their proposals would make the trade uneconomical or uncompetitive without any real benefit to animal welfare. While this may suit RSPCA ambition to shut down the live trade, it has little to do with actually achieving good welfare outcomes for Australian livestock here or abroad.

“By way of example, RSPCA’s claims about stocking densities are incorrect, demonstrate a lack of practical understanding of animal behaviour and manipulate animal welfare motives to make the trade unviable.

“Industry commissioned CSIRO research to undertake the first on-board experiments to examine the animal welfare outcomes of varying stocking densities found there were negligible differences in weight gain, lying time or the health and mortality of livestock at different densities (including the current standard, and plus and minus 10%). Based on these findings, the report concluded that the current ASEL densities – which are minimum standards – are appropriate.

“The findings of the report and the continually low or decreasing mortality rates for livestock exports suggests that the current stocking densities are achieving an appropriate balance between the different factors that could influence animal welfare outcomes.

“In a further example, cattle do not lie on a handful of sawdust – bedding requirements are more extensive and include regular cleaning and wash downs of pens. Industry is also undertaking a project to develop a best practice bedding manual for exporters which would not only benefit the Australian trade but also improve bedding on vessels globally where standards currently do not exist.

“Industry has however not ignored all the proposals put forward by RSPCA and we have been undertaking further analysis to identify areas where consensus may be able to be reached.

“In my discussions with RSPCA, I have indicated that this work would be a good basis on which we could work together and potentially go to government with solutions for changes to ASEL rather than wait for Government to come to us.

“But for me to make this work, RSPCA need to stop shouting like activists, and start acting like welfarists. That includes ending their competition with other activist groups on who can make the most misleading, false and extremist claims about the trade,” Ms Penfold said.

 

RSPCA press release – Government review highlights fundamental problems with live exports

RSPCA Australia is demanding immediate government action to expedite changes to Australia’s live export standards following the release of a report that highlights serious deficiencies in the current regulatory system.

The Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) (which covers the selection of animals for export on farm and on board the ship to the point of disembarkation in the importing country) were developed in response to the 2003 Cormo Express disaster which saw 57,000 Australian sheep rejected by Saudi Arabia.

In 2011, the government-commissioned Independent review of Australia’s livestock export trade (the Farmer Review) found that ‘a full review of the ASEL was a priority’.

Two years later a revised version of the ASEL was presented to the Department of Agriculture by a steering committee, however despite repeated requests from the RSPCA for action, the report was shelved until a request under Freedom of Information legislation by RSPCA Australia forced its publication yesterday.

“The report clearly shows many aspects of the current standards require urgent action, yet Minister Joyce has ignored this issue for months,” said Dr Bidda Jones, Chief Scientist RSPCA Australia.

“The review shows that current standards are failing to ensure people handling animals are aware of their legal responsibilities and have the competency to carry them out, and are allowing animals that are sick, injured or otherwise unfit to slip through the inspection process.

“Failure to progress these important changes means that current standards fall far short of best practice or developments in animal welfare science,” said Dr Jones.

Over 2.3 million animals have been exported since the report was submitted.

While the steering committee agreed on some of the changes needed to the ASEL it failed to agree on key welfare areas such as increased space allowances and bedding provisions on-board ship.

“Current stocking densities force animals to lie down on top of each other and jostle for access to feed and water points. The current bedding provisions for cattle – a handful of sawdust per animal – and no bedding for sheep, are a joke,” said Dr Jones.

“The main impediment to adopting changes to these issues is money. This is despite in many cases there being clear scientific evidence, including industry-funded research reports, indicating the need for improved standards.

“When it comes to the live export industry, it seems animal welfare only matters when images are shown in the media and changes don’t affect the bottom line,” said Dr Jones.

 

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