- Greens Senator for NSW and animal welfare spokesperson Lee Rhiannon responds to questions posted by live export cattle producer Jo Bloomfield on our newly created Ban Live Exports Now facebook page created by our office last Friday 28 September 2012.
Question 1: In the media statement released, 'Greens reintroduce Bill to Ban Live exports', 22.03.12. I would like you to clarify the following! Why is it a crime that “since the live export trade with Indonesia resumed, cattle have been slaughtered at 62 different abattoirs across Indonesia, 12 of which do not practice pre-slaughter stunning”. An updated statement would be that there are now 84 abs and 85% stunning. The question in point, is why, if these abs meet OIE standards and are meeting all the requirements of the ESCAS are they still wrong in your eyes? As a producer who supplies cattle for Live export I feel I deserve an explanation as to your position on this.
The ESCAS is based on OIE standards which are recommendations only, and are rudimentary standards prepared for developing countries. OIE guidelines are not synonymous with the protection of animal welfare and in fact offer less protection for animal welfare than the standards enforced in Australia. For example, there is no requirement in OIE guidelines to stun animals pre-slaughter despite the scientific literature attesting to the suffering a conscious animal endures during slaughter.
No amount of regulation will ameliorate the horrific conditions and suffering livestock are subject to on a long sea voyage, nor the evidenced barbaric treatment of livestock once they reach their export destinations
See answer to ESCAS below in Q2.
Question 2: In the media statement released, Greens reintroduce Bill to Ban Live exports, 22.03.12. You state “It is madness to think that each of these abattoirs can be monitored adequately and enforcement action taken”. In reference to Indonesia, What experience do you have to prove this is true, Have you seen the ESCAS in operation with your own eyes?
Ongoing revelations and evidence of cruelty in receiving countries shows the ESCAS does not work. Government, industry and many Australians continue to rely on investigations and revelations by animal welfare groups like Animals Australia and RSPCA and investigative journalists to reveal extreme cruelty, which the ESCAS fails to do.
The latest outrage of 21,000 sheep being stranded at sea for two weeks and then thousands being brutally killed in Pakistan is a case in point. That the exporter Wellard has expressed abhorrence at the situation and stated it had lost control of its own operations is an example of how the whole live export chain simply can’t be monitored or enforced adequately once it leaves Australian shores.
Question 3: In the media statement released, ‘Greens reintroduce Bill to Ban Live exports’, 22.03.12. You claim that domestic processing of meat in Australia will create thousands of jobs, You also claim that “Jobs in the meat processing industry in Australia dropped from between 40000 to 48000 workers in the 1970’s to around 32000 workers in 2009”.
a. Could you please substantiate these figures? As there was an extensive drought during that period!
b. Did meatworks shut down because of Live export? or did the meatworkers union just give that impression!
c. I would also like to know your views and current understanding of how many people who are employed in abattoirs operated in Australia are actually 457 visa workers?
d. How many positions remain unfilled at meatworks currently across Australia?
The Australian Meat Industry Union represents thousands of Australian workers throughout the meat supply chain, and its research is based on actual government and industry data such as used by ABARES.
A 2006 DAFFA review on the Australian Beef Cattle industry found that “despite the ongoing drought in much of Australia ... strong international demand for beef has ...the industry enjoying its third consecutive year of strong prices and good returns.” A Western Australian Ministerial Taskforce in 2004 found “compelling evidence that competition from ... [the] live export sector for the limited supply of animals at the farm gate, as well as for foreign markets for animal product, has damaged the processing sector” . The 2000 Heilbron report found that “the live export trade could be costing Australia around $1.7 billion in lost GDP, around $280 million in household income and around 12,000 jobs”, with the 2010 report finding the live export industry “is inflicting significant damage on Queensland’s beef processing industry” and seriously risking assets of $3.5 billion, a direct turnover of $5 billion and some 36,000 jobs.
In 1972 there were 550 abattoirs, dropping to 223 in 1992.
Meat processing employment figures are tracked by the ABS. Other figures from the 2010 IBIS World Industry Report state meat processors alone employed 29,000 people in 2010. However an estimated 200,000 people are employed along the red meat industry chain of supply, with 80% working beyond the post-farm supply chain, including in retail butcheries. It is widely recognised local regional processing plants contribute significantly to local economies.
A state of the art meat processing facility in the NT could create more than 800 direct and indirect fulltime equivalent jobs, with significant flow-on effects to regional communities.
We can use Senate Estimates to find out how many 457 visa workers are employed in abattoirs , however it is acknowledged that meat processing plants, like other rural industries throughout Australia, faces labour shortages for many reasons.
Question 4: RSPCA don’t regard the long haul distance of transport in Australia as an animal welfare issue in itself compared to the ability to transport overseas and the animals having greater space, receive food and water in transit. Do you?
The RSPCA is calling for a ban on the live export industry and live export chain within Australia is strictly regulated by each state and territory.
The conditions of livestock on ships are horrendous, with journeys lasting up to 25 days – 35 days if stopping at various ports. There is enough evidence to demonstrate the live export voyages are a horrendous experience for stressed and frightened animals.
Thousands of animals in cramped conditions endure ship motion with its noise and vibrations, high levels of ammonia, lying down in their own urine and faeces, high temperatures and humidity, illness, injuries, exhaustion and malnourishment or starvation when they don’t eat the pellets provided having been grazing in paddocks previously. All these factors add to their already often stressed long journeys from farms to the port.
Question 5: Lee Rhiannon – With lessoned profit margins and the increased price cost squeezes currently occurring within many industries across Australia. If pastoral properties profit margins lesson they will not employ people. Less people, less animal work carried out. Increased bull numbers and less cattle welfare will mean many properties will revert to the trap and truck method of old mustering techniques. Please explain to me the benefits of this form of animal welfare in comparison to current controlled methods of well managed herd?
Last year chilled meat exports earned some $5.757 billion whilst the export of livestock earned $845 million, with the 11 year average showing boxed meat exports earning 706% more than livestock exports (ABARE & ABS). There is continuing healthy demand for Australian meat products, with most Australian beef cattle farms sensibly diversified and not completely reliant on live export which is subject to many factors outside any Australian control.
ABARE projects northern Australian beef cattle farm incomes to increase from an average of $122,720 per farm in 2010-11 to an average of $161,900 in 2011-12. Note also that there were only 22 claims for income subsidies made to workers who had been stood down as a result of the 2001 suspension of trade to Indonesia.
See Qn 3 about employment.
Question 6: If LE is banned, assume the 500000 hd of cattle aimed to LE are sent within Australia. Let’s assume all these cattle are then sent to other processing points within Australia. This will mean a minimum of 20000 decks of cattle, approximately 3333 full road trains extra. Depending on where access in built up areas are allowed then there could be anything up and beyond of 6500 extra truck trips on our roads if they have to split loads. Considering the truck needs to travel to destination and return then there is 13000 extra road trips required, all long hauls. Considering the Stuart Highway is the only real access into the north or NT/WA do you propose to support the massive funding this road requires to handle that treatment. What do you plan to do to help the producers in high rainfall areas where roads
Question 7: If our roads are going to require to carry 13000 extra trucks on a yearly basis predominately in the dry season are you prepared to support special laws to give animal transporters express access along these routes. Remember this is the time of year that the grey nomads and other tourists seem to like to travel too.
Question 8: If our roads are required to carry 13000 extra truck trips each year are you prepared to support the lessoning of road registrations and government charges to allow the transport operators to keep their trucks in prime condition. The costs of fuel and tyres, double up drivers all takes money, long hauls need more time for good animal welfare.
Regarding questions 6-8: The Greens have been calling for government to support the rebuilding of sustainable abattoirs in the north/west – where closures of meat processing facilities have been directly attributable to the competition of the live export trade (see previous answers), and to minimise extensive transport of livestock.
All industry needs appropriate safe and sustainable freight infrastructure and the Greens will continue to call for government to provide appropriate support to industry in this regard by investing in rail. This will allow higher levels of stock transport in Australia’s west. We also welcome the involvement of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, which I note “has been working hard at [(their]) relationship with animal welfare groups.”
The issue of stock transport can be solved with governments, the stock and transport industries and communities working together. Good transport planning can ensure that this is not a significant barrier to building sustainable abattoirs within Australia.
Question 9: Government has supported the Live trade establishment to which private investors have developed substantial infrastructure and time aimed at high standards of live export trade. Will you support the fair and necessary compensation and remuneration of these people who will realise massive loss of money due to stopping of LE?
The Greens have always called for support to industries to transition towards long term sustainability and best-practice.
It is informative to note that Indonesia announced in 2009 its aim to move to self-sufficiency in its livestock production by 2014, and has reaffirmed this on a regular basis. This was widely reported in industry media and by the MLA which recognised the lowering of quotas by Indonesia to that effect. The 2011 live cattle import quotas to Indonesia were already reduced by 58% in 2010, after the huge jumps of over 45% in live and boxed cattle exports to that country from 2003-2009 , and prior to the self-sufficiency announcement.
The issue of the whole live export industry, including to Indonesia, is far more complicated than just the factor of Australia, and also involves the return of major cheaper export competition to the market, Australia’s rising dollar, rising costs of shipping, the healthy demand for chilled meat in all receiving countries, trade protectionism and other factors.
Question 10: With increased transport of north Australian cattle to other areas of Australia for slaughter if Live export is stopped. Many may be trucked at a weight suitable to enter feedlots and then spend time enabling weight increases to relevant kill sizes. Feedlots require substantial land, infrastructure, water and environmental considerations to operate. They also require massive inputs of feedstuffs. Where do you propose to have more feedlots established to support long term numbers of cattle and are you prepared to protect agricultural land from urbanisation creep to support the crops and feeds needed for feedlot processes.
See previous answers including Q3. Where any development is to be established is a matter for planning authorities, local communities and the industry itself – like all other developments.
Question 11: At which point do you think it is suitable for the producer of an animal to be no longer responsible for it both legally and morally. If you believe this to be for the life of the animal do you intend to support forced contractual agreements on Australian producers of any form of livestock to the very death of that animal irrespective of how many times legally it may change hands? Do you intend to regulate a similar idea for all types of animal owners throughout Australia?
The majority of Australians, farmers included, abhor cruelty to animals and condemn sending animals to a proven cruel and suffering death. Live export has been revealed as inherently cruel time and again, year after year, with no control over conditions once animals leave the Australian chain of supply.
Animal cruelty is a crime within Australian borders, no matter who the legal owner of the animals, and is regulated by the states and territories.
Question 12: Lee Rhiannon. What do you plan to do to support and increase the frozen meat trade from Australia? Assuming no Live export, do you intend to support free trade sanctions that continue to undermine Australian producers’ prices in horticultural industries such as oranges and apples? What markets do you see as replaceable to the live export trades? Will you be willing to support investment into these markets to improve electricity and refrigeration if that is what is required to ensure our meat can be sold to those areas?
The Greens have always opposed the undermining of Australia’s primary producer industries by cheap imports, and will continue to do so.
The Greens continue to call for Government to end the market distorting tariffs, subsidies, quotas that create changing and unlevel playing fields for Australian farmers. Government also needs to support economic development and facilitate investment to meet the needs of people in the north of Australia. This includes supporting infrastructure that will allow the domestic processing of Australian livestock for frozen meat export.
I assume you are referring to electricity and refrigeration in countries receiving our exported livestock. Indonesia signalled self-sufficiency in their livestock supplies back in 2009, which was reported widely in Australian livestock industry media. The issue of refrigeration is held up by Australian industry as a requirement for live exports, however this is not mentioned as a factor in any of the Indonesian documentation, bearing in mind that many in Indonesia have fridges as do Indonesian supermarkets and mini-markets ,and that refrigeration is widespread in the Middle East. The refrigeration argument is not borne out by the evidence.
Question 13: Currently the Australian Agricultural company is building an abattoir near Darwin, with an intended capacity to process 225000 head per year. A percentage of these cattle will be AAco owned. This abattoir isn’t intended as a replacement to Live export yet it will be the only processing facility in northern Australia, with a volume of one million head of cattle to draw from across North Australia. Do you intend to support both vocally and with money the needs of more processing facilities in Northern Australia to meet the needs of processing required to sustain a long term viable beef industry.
The Greens have long called for Government to support more processing facilities in Northern Australia. Economic analysis shows this will grow income for producers and communities in that part of Australia.
The Greens support the development of facilities that are sustainable, meet environmental development standards and that are supported by local communities.
We need bipartisan support to make this happen and invest in a sustainable long-term future for the livestock industry. The world is demanding high quality frozen beef, and Australia should be set up to provide it.