Australian Beef Association Chairman Brad Bellinger is concerned over the calls for a total ban on Live Exports from The Greens ,the Australian Meat Workers Union, some Labor back-bencher’s and independent Andrew Wilkie after the latest program on the trade from Four Corners.
The rationale from these sectors is that ending live sheep and cattle shipments would end cruelty and even more absurdly make farmers better off are completely unfounded. To suggest that the livestock can be processed and shipped in carcass form to waiting markets is also incorrect.

1. Australia through its adoption of new regulatory standards for live shipments, ESCAS has made tremendous improvements in animal welfare at point of slaughter in overseas countries.The four processing works in Indonesia that used stunning has now increased to 80% of facilities over the last 18 months.Opponents of the live trade should realise that Australia is only one country of close to 100 that export live animals from countries as diverse as Ethiopia and Mongolia.While Australia is a major exporter of cattle and sheep it only holds a small inventory of the worlds livestock. We are proud of the fact that we are a driver of improved animal welfare conditions.If we exit the trade our input would become irrelevant. Surely the aim of groups such as Animals Australia and the RSPCA should be to improve conditions for all livestock not just those coming from Australia.

2. Experience has shown that stopping live shipments does not mean that the gap will be filled with boxed meat.When live shipments were suspended to Indonesia boxed beef exports from Australia also fell dramatically,both have only recovered to a fraction of what they were before the ban.

3. Live exports represent a market for 3.5 million sheep. As new markets do not appear for chilled meat overnight much of this extra meat would be pushed onto the domestic market. Since January lamb prices have already fallen from $5.40 kg to $3.40 kg with mutton prices fallen even further due to a change in buying habits of the supermarkets and continuing dry conditions. To push an extra 70 000 tons carcase weight of sheep meat onto the domestic market would have disastrous consequences for the price of sheep. This would be the worst possible time to impose a live export ban.

4. Domestic processors have found difficulty in finding enough labour to operate their kill floors with imported labour used to fill the shortage.With an extra 3.5 m sheep to be processed ,more labour visas would be needed. Does the Australian Meat Workers Union want more imported labour that could dilute penalty payment rates to Australian workers.

“Those who continue to shout for a ban on live exports should consider these points and the consequences of their actions. The Australian Government has done the right thing in continuing to support live exports and driving improved animal welfare standards. Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig is correct in treating the inhumane slaughter of sheep in Pakistan as an isolated incident”, Mr Bellinger said.

David Byard
Australian Beef Association
Website: http://www.austbeef.com.au
Email: ausbeef@bigpond.com
Phone: (03) 6326 8960
Mobile: 0409 426 710 (anytime)