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Speech: Latest report on live animal voyage deaths

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 13 Mar 2013

Speech by Lee Rhiannon 12 March 2013 in response to the follow government report on live export voyage mortalities:

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (18:52): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.
Each year Australia exports millions of live animals, but before the sheep, cattle and other exported animals reach their destinations tens of thousands will die from the trauma of the unacceptable conditions of the voyage. This latest report on livestock export mortalities is witness to another 681 cattle and 19,407 sheep that have died on voyages in the one year since 2011 alone. In 2012 there were 192 voyages exporting cattle and 39 exporting sheep. Animals are often required to remain in very poor conditions for longer than a month, and this is on the back of often arduous journeys by road from the stockyards to the ports. Think of the animal cruelty. It is something that we need to address.

We could actually have a win-win here: we could reduce the animals' suffering and we could create so many more jobs in Australia if the Australian government would get behind a clear transition plan and open up more processing of the meat in Australia. The market for processed meat is expanding enormously, and there is growing concern that, because of the lack of action and lack of leadership from the Australian government, we are losing out here. Again, we are losing out in terms of addressing the considerable animal cruelty issues as well as just not creating the tens of thousands of jobs that can be returned to rural and regional Australia.

Coming back to this report that sets out these worrying figures, these animals are uprooted from large grazing pastures. Then, obviously, they can end up exhausted, frightened and anxious just from the travel to the port. We know the compliance by the exporters with the loading and unloading procedures is often abused. Then, on the ships, thousands of animals endure loud noise and vibrations. The conditions are often very cramped. The animals may be left to wallow in their own urine and faeces. So it adds up to a very stressful journey. It is quite understandable why so many die and we end up with these reports. Considering the number of animals exported, discussing the mortality rate in percentage terms is disingenuous and belies the sheer magnitude of suffering and distress these creatures endure as they are transported to our export partners for slaughter. Australians are not cruel people. The vast majority do not support live exports. A 2012 survey commissioned by the World Society for the Protection of Animals showed widespread opposition to the live export trade, with almost seven out of 10 respondents believing that the live export trade should be ended.

Returning to the issue of the boxed meat, from 2000 to 2011 exported boxed meat earned $59 billion, while live sheep and cattle exports earned $8.4 billion. The average earnings over the 11-year period were $5.4 billion per annum for exported boxed sheep and cattle and $765 million per annum for sheep and cattle live exports. So it is again giving emphasis to the very important point that so many jobs could be created in Australia and business could really develop on a much more solid footing by having the meat processed in this country and developing markets for the boxed meat trade. The government is really doing the wrong thing by the industry, because we are losing out to other markets at the present time.

This is an area that the Greens are giving a lot of attention to. We are working with animal welfare groups, with farmers and with the union that covers meatworkers, because clearly there is an opportunity here for there to be a transition away from a reliance on the live export trade and to bring great benefits to regional Australia as well as reducing the animal suffering.

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