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Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2011

Speeches in Parliament
Rachel Siewert 14 Jun 2011


Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2011

This bill will put an immediate end to the horrific treatment of Australian cattle in overseas abattoirs.

Since the ABC's Four Corners program, an episode aptly titled A Bloody Business, was aired two weeks ago my office has been inundated with emails and phone calls from constituents all over Australia who were appalled and outraged by the footage of Australian cattle being subjected to cruel treatment. Australians were horrified to see eye gouging, kicking, tail twisting or breaking, as well as cattle experiencing an average of 11 cuts to the throat, whilst conscious, with one animal suffering 33 cuts to its throat.
The very next day I, as the Australian Greens spokesperson for animal welfare, announced a two-pronged approach to ending live export, calling for the immediate suspension of export licences, followed by a legislated ban on live exports.

It took the minister days to announce a ban on exports to 11 identified abattoirs and days again still to announce a suspension of all cattle exports to Indonesia. The Australian Greens support the ban of exports to Indonesia. Indonesia has no domestic animal protection laws to enforce mandatory stunning or OIE guidelines, and enforcement of standards in over 4000 slaughter locations across Indonesia will be near impossible and very costly. Indonesia is already a signatory to the OIE and Australia has no power to make
Indonesia comply with these guidelines. OIE guidelines are minimal standards for developing countries that allow practices that are illegal in Australia to take place.

As a Senator for Western Australia I have a particular interest in this industry. On average, 180,000 cattle are exported from WA to Indonesia from the WA ports of Broome, Fremantle, Geraldton and Wyndham. In 2010 a total of 170,555 cattle were exported to Indonesia from Western Australia. Already this year, 7,010 cattle have been exported to Indonesia.
That is why I have introduced this bill. The Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2011 amends the Export Control Act 1982 to prohibit the export of live animals for slaughter. The bill provides definitions of livestock and livestock for slaughter to limit the application of the bill to livestock, as defined in section 3 of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 as cattle, calves, sheep, lambs, goats or other prescribed animals, that is intended to be exported and slaughtered overseas. The ban will be in place immediately, with no delay and no continued cruelty. My colleague, Adam Bandt MP, will be introducing the same bill in the House of Representatives in order to maintain pressure on the government to take swift action to end the trade.

The footage shown on Four Corners was provided by Animals Australia investigators who visited 10 abattoirs in four Indonesian cities in March 2011. The RSPCA then conducted a full scientific assessment of the evidence from this investigation.

6.4 million Australian cattle have been sent to these conditions in Indonesia over the last 20 years. The cattle travel from northern Australia to Indonesia in ships with 2,000-3,000 head capacity and the trip can take between 5-10 days, with between one and five animals dying during each shipment from injury, heat stress or pneumonia. Cattle are then feed-lotted in Indonesia for 90 days before being trucked to slaughter. Cattle in Australia are stunned prior to slaughter, including those cattle for the halal-certified export market, but in Indonesia less than 10% of cattle are stunned before having their throats cut, meaning the vast majority of cattle are fully conscious when their throat is cut.

The evidence collected by these two peak animal welfare organisations, Animals Australia and RSPCA, shows that the Mark I cattle restraint devices, which were commissioned under the Meat and Livestock Australia & Livecorp program, facilitate Australian cattle being subjected to cruel practices. The industry program installed 109 of these devices in Indonesia abattoirs since 2001 and was subsidised to the tune of $1.2 million in taxpayer funds. The restraints enable a method of slaughter that trips the animals onto their sides, allowing their throat to be cut. As Animals Australia and the RSPCA state "footage shows terrified animals falling violently onto a sloping concrete slab and during the process of trying to get up crashing their heads and faces against the sharp edge of a concrete blood drain. The force of these blows has chipped away at the cement and has been known to break jaws".

Serious questions need to be asked about the roles of organisations as Meat and Livestock Australia and LiveCorp. MLA has received $5 per head of cattle exported to address animal welfare issues–clearly that has not happened appropriately. The Australian Greens will be moving to have this issue examined by the Rural Affairs and Transport Committee to determine how it was allowed to eventuate.

With around 100 abattoirs in operation in Indonesia taking Australian cattle, the Four Corners program was not highlighting a one-off or an isolated incident. This is widespread, systemic and appalling mistreatment. Previous investigations by Animals Australia have shown equally cruel treatment of Australian animals, for example cattle in Egypt in 2006, sheep in Kuwait in 2010 and 2003, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan in 2007. The evidence is mounting that no matter what animal or what country we export to we cannot guarantee that those Australian animals will be treated humanely at standards which Australians expect.

The sheer numbers of animals involved in this industry are astounding. Between 2008 – 2010 approximately 2,697,569 cattle were exported from Australia, in the same three years 10,751,169 sheep were exported and 254,798 goats.

The range of countries to which animals are exported is also vast. Sheep are exported from Fremantle, Portland and Port Adelaide to Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Breeder cattle are exported from Darwin, Fremantle and Broome to Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Jordan, Japan, Israel and Brunei. Goats are exported from Adelaide, Fremantle and Sydney to Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and Brunei.

Exporting Australian animals to the type of conditions we consistently witness is not acceptable. The Australian Greens propose that we need to be looking at how to improve and increase processing in Australia to support local producers and jobs. The community benefits of processing meat in Australia have been underestimated for too long and are being talked down by the live export industry. An ACIL Tasman report in 2009 found that the phasing out of live sheep exports would have a minimal impact of farmers. A 2010 report, commissioned by Australia's leading meat processors, found that live cattle exports compete with and undermine Australia's domestic beef industry leading to lost processing opportunities in Australia.
Processing animals in Australia protects them from inhumane treatment and ensures our laws and standards regarding animal welfare can be upheld.

By growing our meat export trade we can create more local jobs, support communities and maintain economic viability for producers. We should be investing in these economic opportunities rather than maintaining the live export trade which sees animals being treated so badly once they leave our shores.

The Australian Greens will continue to call for an immediate ban on all live exports until the cows, sheep and goats come home.

I commend this bill to the Senate.

Debate adjourned.

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