27 November 2020

The RSPCA has expressed disappointment at Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s last minute intervention on behalf of the live export industry, to block improvements in live cattle exports.

Earlier this year, despite new regulations preventing sheep exports to the Middle East from June to mid-September, the operators of the Al Kuwait were able to get an exemption from the federal Department of Agriculture to export sheep after the 1 June deadline. 

In September, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud staged a last minute intervention on behalf of the live export industry, to block improvements in live cattle exports that were due to come into effect on 1 November. The RSPCA expressed disappointment at the decision.

“Stakeholders have been working hard behind the scenes for two years, with multiple public consultations, to secure these very modest changes – but at the eleventh hour, Minister Littleproud has stepped in to undermine the agreed improvements,” said RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow. 

“All we’re talking about is giving cattle a little bit of additional space to allow them to lie down and to better access food and water troughs on these voyages, which can sometimes take weeks and weeks. 

“It’s an incredibly modest change, which is why it’s even more disappointing that the Minister has stepped in to block it,” said Dr Goodfellow. 

Dr Goodfellow also said that the arguments against reducing stocking densities simply don’t stack up. 

“For the industry or Government to claim that the science is not settled on this issue is disingenuous, because the science is very clear. We know that reducing stocking densities is one simple and tangible step that can improve animal welfare outcomes on these voyages.”

Both the norther summer live sheep export ban and proposed decreased livestock density regulations are there to protect animal welfare.

In stark contrast to the attitudes of the federal administrators of animal welfare standards, livestock producers and processors are recognising the benefits of improved standards for the land transport of livestock as evidenced by this Farm Weekly article published on 2 November. 

This article demonstrates that farmers and others in the industry appreciate the economic benefits of improved land transport welfare standards.  Improved product quality and improved value chain recognition of higher welfare standards mean improved profitability.  It would appear the live export industry cannot or will not recognise that a similar approach could lead to improved quality in their industry.