Updated annual live export mortality rate data from the Department of Agriculture shows that 358 cattle from the 314,144 exported from Australia from July to December 2012 died during transit.
The figure represented an overall mortality rate of 0.11 percent of all exported cattle for the six month period.
Of the 1,037,281 sheep delivered to export markets during the same period, 9322, or 0.9pc, died in transit.
The department is required to report mortality rates on live export voyages to Parliament every six months.
The latest figures have drawn both praise and condemnation from federal politicians.
Greens senator Lee Rhiannon said the trade exposed animals to cruel conditions, and described the loss of 681 cattle from 626,504 exported, and 19,407 sheep from 2,199,999 for the full 2012 calendar year as unacceptable.
“Considering the number of animals exported, discussing the mortality rate in percentage terms is disingenuous and belies the sheer magnitude of suffering and distress these creatures endure as they are transported to our export partners for slaughter,” she said.
She said the industry should be replaced with boxed beef exports to create more jobs in meat processing in Australia.
“From 2000 to 2011 exported boxed meat earned $59 billion, while live sheep and cattle exports earned $8.4 billion.
“The average earnings over the 11-year period were $5.4 billion per annum for exported boxed sheep and cattle and $765 million per annum for sheep and cattle live exports.
“So it is again giving emphasis to the very important point that so many jobs could be created in Australia and business could really develop on a much more solid footing by having the meat processed in this country and developing markets for the boxed meat trade.
“The government is really doing the wrong thing by the industry, because we are losing out to other markets at the present time.”
Liberal Senator Chris Back, a veterinarian, congratulated the industry on the “remarkably good figures” that had been achieved despite very difficult circumstances for the industry.
He said he also wanted to debunk the theory that Australia could replace livestock exports with boxed beef exports.
“Let me give you a lesson in current affairs and history,” he told the Senate chamber.
“When Australia lost the live export trade to Saudi Arabia some years ago, we had a very active sale of meat—boxed meat and frozen and/or chilled meat—to that country.
“History records that, when we lost the live export trade, we also lost the boxed meat trade.
“I come forward to 2012-13 and draw your attention to Indonesia, where, of course, as a result of a decision of Ms Gillard and Senator Ludwig in 2011, we all of a sudden terminated the sale of live cattle to the Indonesian market, thus denying some 69 million low-socioeconomic Indonesian people their right to beef protein.
“If you listened to Senator Rhiannon, you would have thought that once the trade restarted under some limited conditions, including dropping the sale of live animals to that market, and there being a continuing demand for beef protein, logic would tell us that we would have seen an increase in the sale of chilled or frozen meat to Indonesia.
“But of course exactly the history that we saw in Saudi Arabia has been repeated in Indonesia—that is, while the number of live cattle going to those markets has halved, so indeed has the tonnage of beef going to those markets.
“At a time when the price of beef has increased tenfold, the average consumer, the low-socio-economic Indonesian consumer who once so heavily relied on the Australian trade, has now been lost.”
He said the same scenario was being played out today in Western Australia where sales of sheep had collapsed following the loss of live export markets, with the domestic processing industry unable to bridge the gap.
“Those of us who know anything about markets and trade would always know that when a competitor leaves—in this case the live export competitor—it affects the market.
“So we now only have the one buyer—that is, the meat industry—and the meat industry will never sustain the prices.”
He added that Australia was the only country in the world that invested heavily to ensure that animal welfare standards in all target markets remained high, and the departure of Australia from these markets meant welfare standards would dissipate.
“I leave the chamber with the message that it is an absolute myth that if we were to remove the live export trade there would all of a sudden be an increase in opportunities and employment in the meat industry around Australia.”
Annual live export mortality rate data since 2000 can be viewed on the DAFF website here