Live exports do not fit with animal welfare

It took a whistle blower to expose the extreme suffering of sheep on the Awassi Express.

The fact that it took a whistle blower clearly demonstrates the complete failure of the regulatory regime when it comes to ensuring the welfare of sheep exported to the Middle East.

It should not have come as a surprise. As far back as 1985, a senate inquiry concluded that the export of live sheep to the Middle East was not compatible with good animal welfare.

The report acknowledged that it would be very disruptive if the trade was closed overnight. The report flagged the need to phase out the industry over the long term while building up the export of chilled meat.

Thirty-three years and many investigations later the repugnant suffering continues to the point that some regionally based Liberal members of the Federal Parliament are actively calling for the closure of the industry.

They know that the industries social license to operate no longer exists.

Overwhelmingly, Western Australia makes up the bulk of the live sheep exported at around 88 per cent with South Australia making up about 10 per cent of the exports.

Live sheep export has undergone a significant decline over recent years and now represents about five per cent of the sheep meat industry by value.

If the live sheep export industry is phased out we need to assist those sheep producers that might be disadvantaged.

Last week Labor flagged its intent in the South Australian Parliament to establish a Select Committee.

The terms of reference include the need to work with the livestock industry to develop a plan to assist exposed sheep producers if the trade ceases or is restricted.

The capacity for additional local meat processing and associated job creation will be explored as will the further development of export markets for chilled and frozen meat.

In addition, the quantum and scope of the assistance package required to make a positive transition should the trade cease will be investigated.

In 2003, New Zealand realised the serious reputational risk posed by live sheep exports to its farmers and pulled out of the industry. It is time we adopted the New Zealand approach.

EDDIE HUGHES

Member for Giles