In its official response to a Senate inquiry on live export, the government said it agreed with the Senate’s recommendation not to introduce two proposed bills seeking the prohibition of the trade.
“The government is committed to supporting the continuation of the livestock export trade and will, therefore, not be supporting the passage of the bill,” it said.
It also said that it rejected a recommendation from the Australian Greens to make pre-slaughter stunning mandatory in all abattoirs where Australian livestock are slaughtered.
“Imposing a mandatory requirement of pre-slaughter stunning for Australian livestock in overseas markets would be, prima facie, inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and would also be unacceptable to a number of key trading partners,” it said.
The response has been welcomed by the Australian livestock industry, which published a joint statement praising the government’s commitment to supporting the continuation of the live export trade. It added that the industry has worked closely with government to develop the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) – an audited scheme that safeguards the welfare of exported Australian livestock.
“The Australian livestock industry is committed to ensuring continual improvements in animal welfare standards across all markets for Australian livestock exports. The supply chain assurance system now covers 75% of all Australian livestock exported, with the remainder to be brought under ESCAS by the end of 2012,” said the statement.
However, the Australian Greens have criticised the government’s response, arguing that it “will not appease public concerns about the live export trade”.
Greens Senator and animal welfare spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said: “After eight months of waiting for a response to the Senate Inquiry, the government’s effort today will do little to address the tidal wave of public concern about the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals in the live export trade.”
She added that the government’s decision to reject the Senate’s recommendation that the Chief Veterinary Officer should oversee the effectiveness of Mark IV restraint boxes, leaving industry bodies in charge, was “like leaving the prison keys with the inmates”.
She vowed that the Greens, which prompted the inquiry by the Senate, would not stop until the “inhumane” live export industry was banned.
“Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig will continue to feel the heat until the cruel live export trade is stopped and mandatory stunning introduced,” she said.