The plan includes financial incentives for the development of meat processing facilities in northern Australia, the removal of subsidies that encourage live exports, working with farmers and meat unions to ensure a “smooth” transition and establishing government divisions dedicated to establishing overseas markets for Australian chilled meat exports.
It was published in a position paper yesterday (12 November), ahead of the last government caucus meeting of the year, where MPs will discuss live exports.
The argument over live exports has been raging since the beginning of this year, when undercover footage emerged of Australian cattle suffering cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs, and was recently reignited after 21,000 Australian sheep were brutally culled in Pakistan.
The position paper stated the government’s live export regulatory system, ESCAS, cannot prevent incidents of animal cruelty, because it is “not capable of controlling the supply chain or the conduct of importers”. It claimed that ending live exports and developing a meat processing sector in northern Australia would both resolve animal welfare concerns and boost regional employment and economies.
“For over two decades the merits of expanding the chilled and frozen processed meat trade from animals humanely transported and slaughtered here, in lieu of live exports, has been identified in inquiries, reports and economic studies. The government’s shelves are well-stocked with advice on how to grow Australia’s meat processing sector and the research is available on how to make this important transition. New Zealand has shown it can be done. All that is needed now is action,” said the paper.
Australian Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said the Australian public were “distressed” over live export cruelty and said the government needed to implement a “comprehensive plan”, not “half-baked enquiries”.
“Minister Ludwig is in denial about the long-term viability of live exports. He has to admit Australia has a problem and take action to move away from live exports,” she said. “Growing domestic meat processing for local and export markets will reduce animal cruelty inherent in the live export trade while boosting Australia’s economy and assisting farmers.”
She said she hoped the Labour Party would consider the issues raised in the position paper before parliament resumed. “I have sought a meeting with the Minister to discuss our position paper and will be consulting with unions, animal welfare groups and producers to gain feedback and promote this work,” she added.