Australia’s livestock export industry was not only exporting livestock around the world, but best practice in animal welfare as well, LiveCorp chairman David Galvin told a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra this week.
In response to questions by NT Labor Senator Nova Peris about the influence of Australia’s livestock export trade on animal welfare in destination countries, Mr Galvin said Australia was a world leader in transferring animal welfare knowledge around the world via its livestock export industry.
Examples of the positive influence Australia was having on animal welfare in export markets included:
- Since 2011 and the introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System the rate of pre-slaughter stunning in Indonesian abattoirs handling Australian cattle had increased from around 5pc to more than 80pc, and was continuing to increase.
- Australia’s livestock export industry has now has trained 4000 people across the globe in improved animal welfare standards, across regions such as South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
- At the LiveXchange conference in Townsville in November Dr Derek Belton, the head of international trade for the World Organisation for Animal Health, stated that “the Australian live export industry has taken animal welfare improvements to the rest of the world and for this it has the OIE's unequivocal support. They operate in 177 countries across the world and they have agreements to lift animal welfare standards”.
- 75 percent of the Australian livestock export industry’s entire budget was spent on animal welfare.
- LiveCorp had made 116 R&D reports publicly available on its website to help other countries improve their own knowledge about animal welfare. “So people in the shipping game in Uruguay and Paraguay, Pakistani feed lotters and Bangladeshi abattoir owners can go to this site and find advice on nutrition, animal welfare and handling practices. We want people to come to us and seek our advice,” Mr Galvin said.
Mr Galvin said he had attended the last two Festivals of Eid in Doha, Qatar, and had personally observed examples of how stock handling and processing practices involving locally bred livestock were being positively influenced by Australia’s presence in the market.
“I think the assistance we have put in under ESCAS has flowed directly onto the local sheep,” he said. “They, in the end, are killed in the same abattoir (improved under ESCAS for Australian sheep). I believe that the handling has got better. I have been very impressed with it. I have seen firsthand how those practices that the Australian industry has put in place have transferred to local sheep.”
Mr Galvin said no other country was putting in the effort Australia was to lift animal welfare standards in overseas markets.
He acknowledged that the trade had experienced setbacks.
“Along the way we acknowledge that we will have some setbacks, whether it is leakages or some untoward practices, as we do in Australian abattoirs from time to time.
“Unfortunately human error occurs and bad practices do slip in.
“But what we are doing is exponentially improving. We might go backwards a little bit in some bad accident or bad practice, but we have exponentially improved animal welfare standards in these markets.”
Mr Galvin said livestock exporters were unfairly maligned by media outlets and vested interest groups, and the advancements that had been achieved in animal welfare practices around the world could not have been achieved without them.
“The effort they put in cannot be underestimated. As I said, some things do go astray and we heard about it today. But, on the whole, without our exporters extolling the importers, being there, working with the MLA, the lead programs, the national governments, it would not be occurring as it is in such a positive fashion."
He added that it had been pleasing to note the RSPCA’s efforts in working cooperatively with the livestock export industry to ensure animal welfare outcomes in overseas markets.
ESCAS duplication costs ‘enormous’
Liberal Senator for WA Chris Back asked the LiveCorp representatives if any progress had been made in reducing the amount of duplication involved in the animal welfare auditing process for the mandatory Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.
He noted that under the system it was necessary for all exporters using the same abattoir in export markets to undertake individual animal welfare audits of the same facility.
“Have we now seen a rationalisation of that so that the one abattoir, for example, gets audited and its compliance is then applicable to different people putting animals into it?,” Senator Back asked.
LiveCorp chief executive officer Sam Brown said the level of duplication was a cause of great cost and great concern, and the industry had been advocating for a move to a risk-based approach, where auditing could be focused where it was most needed.
“We know that administration costs (of the current system) are enormous,” Mr Brown said.
“If we can continue to make efficiencies, whilst not compromising the effectiveness of ESCAS, that will free up much-needed cash for the supply chain to flow back down or, alternatively, to be invested in areas of greater animal welfare advancement.”