ANIMALS Australia has slammed reports of an imminent agreement being struck between China and Australia on live cattle exports, along with the Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
With the intergovernmental agreement on animal health protocols for Bluetongue disease expected to be announced soon, the consistently vocal live export trade critics warn the new export market would cause adverse animal welfare outcomes.
It’s believed the health protocol agreement could optimistically see 1 million head of slaughter and feeder cattle exported to China per year, from southern and northern Australian markets.
But animal rights group Animals Australia says the China deal is, “exactly why we need to take the campaign to end live export to the next level”.
“It’s now clear that the Australian government accepts some animals will always be brutalised in the live export trade,” the group’s Facebook page said today.
“And rather than call to account repeat offenders, we have a Minister (Barnaby Joyce) intent on sending as many animals to as many countries as possible, at whatever cost.
“Today our government is gloating that up to 'one million' live cattle may one day be exported to be killed in China — yet another country with no animal welfare laws.”
Done with 'playing nice'
Animals Australia has ramped up its anti-live export campaigning in recent weeks saying, “we're done playing nice”.
The animal rights group is seeking to recruit 3000 regular monthly donors to help buy media space for its ongoing campaign, including advertising billboards.
“We think it's only fair that politicians be confronted with the reality of what they're supporting,” the group said.
“That’s why we’re going to do something we’ve never done before: put the stories of live export victims where they can’t be ignored - on billboards - and keep them there right up until the next federal election.”
Today’s news prompted Mr Wilkie to increase the veracity of his rhetoric in campaigning against the trade.
“I recently called the federal government a pack of sadists when it comes to animal welfare,” he said today.
“Turns out evil death cult would have been a better description as far as the live animal export trade is concerned.
“The government seems set to effectively double Australia’s cruel live export trade with a deal with China to export one million cattle a year.
“This is a dreadful development that means even more cruelty for Australian livestock.”
Mr Wilkie said the economic argument “simply does not stack up”.
“The more we move to live exports the more we are cannibalising the red meat industry and exporting jobs from Australia,” he said.
“There is a healthy market for processed Australian red meat.
“It’s not like these countries will only buy live cattle.”
Greens animal welfare spokesperson and NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon echoed a similar sentiment on live exports and job creation.
“Instead of working with farmers and the industry to rebuild domestic meat manufacturing, the Abbott government has again chosen to turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals shipped for live exports,” she said.
“Opening up abattoirs across regional Australia would create thousands of jobs and help secure Australia a stronger place in the expanding international trade in processed meat.
“The only way to stop this cruelty is end of live exports by working with Australian farmers to expand and strengthen the processed meat trade.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he wanted to see the detail on any live cattle export deal with China, telling media today, “I'm not going to go into hypotheticals”.
“Live export arrangements are important to Australia and they are valuable to Australia but, again, this is the classic Abbott government magic show,” he said.
“They never actually tell you what's really going on behind the curtain.
“What they need to do is tell Australians what's going on.”
China's animal rights record
Mr Shorten also declined to comment on hypotheticals when asked about China’s animal rights record.
“We've got codes of conduct in terms of animal rights, in terms of live trade export,” he said.
Speaking at his regular media briefing from his Tamworth electorate office today, Mr Joyce said the China live cattle deal would help boost farmgate returns across the country.
He said he expected the deal to be inked imminently leaving the final announcement to the Chinese government.
“I don’t want to rain on their parade by making the final announcement now,” he said.
“The final announcement is once the Chinese government put it on their website.”
Industry sources declined to respond to the comments from Animals Australia and Mr Wilkie and the Greens saying: “It’s not worth giving them any oxygen”.
Sources have also stressed ongoing health protocol discussions are independent of last-minute free trade agreement negotiations with China this week, involving Australian agricultural representatives in Beijing.
Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) chief executive Alison Penfold said the China live cattle deal had “massive potential” but a lot of water still had to go under the bridge.
“Exporters will have a lot more to say when there’s an actual announcement on a protocol agreement,” she said.