Back defends live ex standards

15 Mar, 2014 01:00 AM
Australian cattle in an Indonesian feedlot.
Only one country ... has ever invested time, money and people in improving animal welfare
Australian cattle in an Indonesian feedlot.

WEST Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back says it is “high time” Greens’ Senators, animal activists and others give acknowledgement to livestock producers and exporters for their work to improve animal welfare standards over the years.

“Are those standards at 100 per cent? No, they are not,” the former veterinarian said.

Senator Back said if Australia ever abandoned the live export trade, not only would the meat industry suffer financially, but also “a decline in animal welfare standards” would be the “inevitable outcome”.

“I say, and will go on saying, that, of the 109 countries that export live animals around the world, there is only one country that has ever invested, and continues to invest, time, money and people in improving animal husbandry, animal welfare, nutrition, housing, transport and other standards in those markets and that country is Australia.”

Senator Back made the comments when delivering the half-yearly report on livestock mortality rates for live exports at sea from January 1 to June 30, 2013.

“I comment once again on the excellence of the figures that have been presented to us in the report,” he said.

Senator Back said of 440,000 cattle exported in that time-frame, there were 500 mortalities (0.12 per cent) indicating the cattle survived their journeys in condition “as good as or better than when they left Australia's shores”.

He said of the 805,000 sheep exported, the mortality rate was 9800 (1.12pc), which was “higher than you would normally expect”.

“There was one particular incident in September in the Gulf where the vessel, as I understand it, ran into a most unusual high humidity period for a couple of hours,” he said.

“At different times I have read - although I never experienced this when I was a veterinarian on live sheep ships - about that type of circumstance, but prior to that and after that the mortality levels have been very low.

“If you remove those (anomalies), we are back down to 0.7pc, which I think is a remarkable statistic and speaks to Australia's excellence over the last 40 years in leading the world in the transport of livestock to the points of export, transport on vessels, transport to feedlots, behaviour, nutrition and husbandry at ports.

“Unfortunately, during the bushfire season here in Australia during January, on one day alone we lost 7000 sheep in a bushfire in one of our southern States.

“Australia has always and, regrettably, will always face those sorts of events.

“It is the resilience of our producers, the excellence of our exporters and, I dare say, the excellence of our regulators who oversee this process that drive the improvements that always go on.”

Senator Back also reported that Australia was responsible for almost uniquely supplying sheep and therefore sheepmeat to 700,000 refugees currently moving across Syria’s troubled borders.

He said the number of refugees displaced by the “atrocities going on in Syria” at the moment was approaching 1 million.

“It is my understanding that meat forms about 18 pc of the accumulated foodstuffs for those people,” he said.

“This country can be very proud that, as a result of the long-term contracts we have had, as a result of the excellence of the stock that leave this country and are transported and arrive in those destinations - in this case Jordan and its associated Gulf states - we are playing our role in providing foodstuffs.

“Should anyone say, 'Surely we could send this meat frozen or chilled,' I would dare say that, with the standard of infrastructure in the refugee camps supporting some 700,000 to 1 million people, refrigeration would not be high on the priority list.”

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Ex farmer
15/03/2014 8:13:58 AM

Well said Chris, its about time the silent majority were recognised for all their good work that they are doing within the live export trade.
Rohan Williams
15/03/2014 11:04:58 AM

It's fantastic that this message is being delivered Colin. This needs to be known in far wider circles.
RSPCA Australia
17/03/2014 9:46:02 AM

The live trade’s history is marked by a litany of disasters - over 2.5million animals died on voyages alone over the past 30 years. The skimmed over September ‘incident’ saw 4,179 sheep perish from heat stress en route to Qatar. Heat stress is a slow, agonising way to die. Australia can contribute to improving animal welfare standards abroad without participating in the live trade. The provision of technical assistance, tied foreign aid, and greater investment in relevant OIE and global animal welfare NGO programs, provide greater opportunities to achieve long-term, wider-reaching impacts.
19/03/2014 5:54:55 PM

@RSPCA Australia 2.5 million animals have died on voyages in the past 30 years. How does that compare to on farm mortality rates over the past 30 years? Or better yet the mortality rates at your own animal shelters?
Wendy Davidson
19/03/2014 6:51:56 PM

Thanks Chris good work. Maybe RSPCA could clean up our own countries animal welfare problems in the back yards of Australia. Just a thought
19/03/2014 9:42:04 PM

Sadly and tragically, animals subject to the live export trade still suffer terribly and no tinkering at the edges has changed that. From the moment they leave the farm gate they experience stress and anxiety and this is just the beginning of their terrible journey. Nothing to be proud of at all!
Bushfire Blonde
20/03/2014 7:06:03 PM

Lynette, come up with your evidence inside of the same old tirade.
David Harrison
20/03/2014 8:52:09 PM

RSPCA Australia, by my calculation your claim amounts to 83,333.33 animals, every year, dying while being exported live. I would be very interested to see the evidence to back your claim.
31/03/2014 6:46:36 AM

RSPCA Australia. What was the natural mortality rate for regions reliant on live-ex. What was the mortality rate directly attributed to the live-ex ban. What has been the human damage to struggling families surviving in one the harshest environment on earth.
16/04/2014 5:10:07 PM

SHAME on you Senator Back - just read you claimed that an Aussie animal welfare group paid OS abattoirs to torture and abuse animals, so fake live export abuse footage could be captured on camera! #headinthesand


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