RENEWED calls for a ban on live animal export from Australia fail to take into account the detrimental consequences, including erosion of animal welfare standards and serious economic impacts, say livestock exporters.
The Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) has responded to an animal rights campaign saying that not only is it a legal and legitimate industry, it is also acting responsibly by striving to meet community animal welfare expectations.
A campaign to ban the live animal export industry was last week launched with bus and billboard advertisements by Animals Australia suggesting the trade is a "crime against animals".
Alison Penfold, ALEC chief executive officer, said her organisation was already working hard to educate the public about how animal welfare standards had been improved and said suggesting the trade was criminal by nature was simply wrong.
"We all want the humane treatment of livestock but we do not accept that banning the Australian live trade is the way to achieve it," she said.
"Rather than spending money on billboards and buses as a means to improve animal welfare, Australian live exporters and their customers are investing in people and livestock facilities around the world to ensure the welfare of livestock in our charge through practical on-the-ground training and improvements in handling, husbandry and slaughter practices.
"Significant improvements have already been made as demonstrated in the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) Report released by the government last month, including the increased use of pre-slaughter stunning and modernisation of restraint and slaughter equipment.
"We know we are not done yet and will continue to implement improvements to our practices and infrastructure by working constructively with our customers and facility operators that handle Australian livestock."
Ms Penfold said the beef industry had been upfront in acknowledging that despite the significant improvements made in the welfare of exported livestock, there had been a number of serious incidents of the mistreatment of animals.
"Brutal treatment of livestock - like the tying up of the bull pictured in the current advertising campaign - has no place in the Australian live trade and will not be tolerated," she said.
"Industry has taken action including the sacking of staff, removing facilities access to further consignments of Australian livestock and suspending whole markets where appropriate in response to cruel and improper handling and slaughter.
"This is over and above the numerous sanctions that have been placed on exporters by the Australian government.
"Animals Australia's call to ban the live trade as the only solution fails to take account of the real consequences a ban would impose - that is, obliterating a billion dollar-plus industry and the livelihood of thousands of people.
"Their approach also fails to address the other real dilemma - that a ban of the trade would not improve animal welfare.
"Australian markets would go to exporters who don't invest in welfare, don't train staff in livestock humane handling, don't consider the health and welfare needs of livestock on trucks and vessels, don't work to any welfare standards and who don't strive for continuous improvement.
"We could see significant negative welfare consequences for cattle, sheep and goats left here at home without viable markets.
"And without our influence in markets which the international animal health and welfare body (OIE) recognises as world leading, animal welfare outcomes would deteriorate.
Ms Penfold said that there was no question that Australian exporters would continue to improve the welfare of exported livestock, and indeed local livestock in markets as well.
"Getting better welfare is not just about compliance for industry. We are striving for zero harm, and while we are not perfect in the face of significant challenges we do accept responsibility to improve."
"Our message to Australians who might see this latest Animals Australia campaign is that the live trade has made positive progress in the treatment of exported livestock.
"The industry's focus and effort is on continuous improvement but a ban would turn back the clock on animal welfare and have serious negative consequences for Australia, Australians and global standards."