Australia’s live cattle export industry has launched two large-scale animal welfare plans to drive its push towards ensuring all Australian animals receive appropriate levels of treatment in overseas markets.
Central to the strategy is a commitment to only supply cattle to overseas facilities that meet relevant World Health Organisation Standards by 2015.
The first plan is an over-arching strategic vision for Australia’s worldwide live export operations, and the second is a step-by-step action plan detailing how the vision will be implemented in the major market of Indonesia.
The documents deal specifically with supply chain assurance and ensuring animals are not put into situations where welfare is placed at risk, and with promoting acceptable standards governing the treatment of Australian animals from the point of arrival in overseas markets through to the point of processing.
The industry is now seeking Federal Government endorsement of the plans. Federal support and assistance in working with importing countries at Government to Government level is considered vital in the push to have the standards universally adopted in export markets.
The strategy and action plan flows from an extensive analysis of Australia’s live export systems last year.
The review looked at how existing Australian live export practices compared to World Organisation for Animal Health standards.
It found that overall animal welfare standards throughout the trade were good, with the major area of concern being identified as the point of processing in foreign markets.
The improvement of slaughter practices including installation of stunning equipment and training of processing employees was a key recommendation of the review.
Indonesia is Australia’s largest and most important market for live cattle, and by a considerable margin.
It took 59.5pc of Australia’s total live cattle shipments last year, worth $319 million to the Australian economy.
The Indonesia Animal Welfare Action Plan includes the following key points:
- By 2015 Australian livestock will only be supplied to facilities where supply chains meet relevant World Organisation for Animal Health standards.
- An Indonesian Animal Welfare Taskforce will be formed to conduct a stocktake of all facilities and locations processing Australian livestock.
- 20 new Animal Welfare Officers will be trained to guide the implementation of the Indonesian Animal Welfare Action Plan.
- The industry will seek endorsement from local religious and Indonesian Government authorities for the use of stunning in processing of cattle by 30 May 2011.
- The industry will review current Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) at the point of processing, develop standards and commence implementation and training on a priority basis by 31 October 2011.
- Stunning equipment to be introduced to five selected abattoirs by November 30, 2011, ahead of broader roll out next year.
- Industry will work with the Indonesian Government’s Directorate General of Livestock Services (DGLS) to develop modular abattoir designs.
- All facilities to be subjected to ongoing assessments to ensure adherence to endorsed livestock welfare standards.
Meat and Livestock Australia chairman Don Heatley said that the industry would be working hard to achieve its aims before the 2015 deadline.
LiveCorp CEO Cameron Hall said Australia was the only country in the world investing in animal welfare in its overseas markets.
"It again demonstrates that the industry is committed to implementing lasting animal welfare improvements in our key livestock export markets,” he said.
For cattle producers, the live export trade was of vital importance to the entire Australian cattle industry, according to the Cattle Council of Australia.
"Indonesia is the most important market for many of our northern producers and the type of cattle produced in the north are well suited to that market. We also know that demand from Indonesia helps to underpin cattle prices right across the country," Cattle Council CEO David Inall said.
"Over time we have developed a sophisticated supply chain from Australian producers to Indonesian feedlots so this initiative launched today will further develop that relationship."
Related story: Animal Welfare groups set to intensify live export campaign