Federal Parliament will soon face a vote on whether Australian cattle should be stunned before slaughter in overseas markets after independent MP Andrew Wilkie introduced a new bill to Parliament yesterday.
The Livestock Export (Animal Welfare Conditions) Bill 2011 calls for Australian livestock slaughtered overseas to be ‘slaughtered in accordance with the Australian standard for the hygienic production and transportation of meat and meat products for human consumption’.
The move follows the recent release of the independent review of the live export trade by former Australian diplomat Bill Farmer, which did not recommend that stunning be made mandatory.
Agriculture minister Joe Ludwig also ruled out supporting a policy of compulsory stunning, on the grounds that Australia could not ask foreign countries to ban unstunned slaughter when the same practice is allowed here for religious and cultural purposes.
Mr Wilkie told Parliament the bill does not call for anything that is not required in Australia.
He said the relevant Australian Standard stated that “before sticking commences, animals are stunned in a way that ensures the animals are unconscious and insensible to pain before sticking occurs and do not regain consciousness or sensibility before dying.”
He said the limited exemptions that exist for pre-slaughter stunning for ritual purposes still required immediate stunning post-slaughter.
“In these cases the Australian Standard ensures that ‘an animal that is stuck without first being stunned and is not rendered unconscious as part of its ritual slaughter, is stunned without delay after it is stuck to ensure it is rendered unconscious.’
“Now while this practice has certainly been questioned by animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA and is clearly in need of urgent revision, it does show us very clearly that it is misleading to state that we do not require animals to be stunned here in Australia.”
“Moreover Mr Speaker there can simply be no argument whatsoever mounted to claim that this Bill, the Livestock Export (Animal Welfare Conditions) Bill 2011 would legislate anything above and beyond what is required in Australia.”
In response to the bill, the Northern Territory opposition Leader Terry Mills told ABC Radio that mandatory stunning was a step too far.
Mr Mills said the abattoris he had visited slaughtered cattle humanely even when they are not stunned.
"I think it is over-reach, to require our neighbour to stun all animals that come from Australia is going just one step too far," Mr Mills said.
"They comply with international standards in the complying abattoirs in Indonesia."
NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson also told ABC radio that his government supports humane slaughter where possible.
"What we support is the current Australian government position, which is to encourage and work with countries in Indonesia and other export destinations to encourage mandatory stunning, wherever possible, as being absolutely the preferred method of dispatching animals," Mr Henderson said.