One of the fiercest critics of the livestock export trade in Federal Parliament has spent the morning touring a Northern Territory cattle station at the joint invitation of the NT Livestock Exporters Association and the NT Cattlemen’s Association.
Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie has introduced three private member's bills into the Federal House of Representatives in the past three years calling for the livestock export industry to be phased out, and for pre-slaughter stunning of all exported livestock to be made mandatory in the meantime.
His previous bills have failed to attract parliamentary support but he has recently launched another bill to be debated this year, which aims to shut down the trade by 2016.
Mr Wilkie has repeatedly described the trade as inherently cruel and not in Australia’s long-term economic interest.
After openly criticising the trade alongside the Greens, the RSPCA and Animals Australia for the past three years, Mr Wilkie recently week accepted an invitation by the NTLEA and NTCA to visit the northern cattle industry and to meet people directly involved in the trade for the first time.
Representatives of the NTLEA and NTCA accompanied Mr Wilkie to Twin Hills Station this morning, an aboriginal owned and operated property geared to breeding cattle for the live export trade. The party was also scheduled to visit a depot for live export cattle near Darwin before Mr Wilkie returns to the south this afternoon.
Members of the live export trade have often expressed frustration that when MPs such as Andrew Wilkie speak publicly about the trade, they focus their comments only on examples of animal welfare breaches detected by groups such as Animals Australia, and offer no recognition of the millions of dollars that have been invested by industry on improving animal welfare standards both in Australia and in foreign markets, most recently under the now mandatory Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.
They are also concerned about the lack of recognition given in public coverage of the trade to the economic importance of the industry, and the impact that efforts to shut down the trade would have on the thousands of people whose businesses and livelihoods rely on the trade in Australia, and the many low-income consumers in developing markets who rely upon exported livestock to provide an affordable source of animal protein.
Beef Central understands Mr Wilkie will also be offered the opportunity to spend time on a live export ship if he is interested.