Bills threat to live trade

REBECCA TURNERCountryman

Bills calling for the end to the live export trade will be put before Parliament today.

Activist groups Animals Australia and the RSPCA are calling on the Federal Government to allow a conscience vote.

The lobby groups fear the Bills, one calling for an immediate ban on the trade and the other a phasing out over three years, will not be passed unless Federal politicians are allowed to vote using their own beliefs instead of that of their party.

“Ask any MP about their views on animal cruelty and they will tell you they oppose it, ” Animals Australia cruelty investigator Lyn White said.

“Yet both major parties have policies that support one of the cruellest industries this country has ever known.

“You cannot oppose animal cruelty and support live export and it’s a failing of our political system that MPs who are increasingly uncomfortable with the trade may be forced to vote for it to continue.”

Rallies across Australia were run last Sunday by Animals Australia and the RSPCA with a reported 20,000 people taking part.

“This was the biggest rally for animals in Australia’s history and certainly exceeded all expectations, ” Ms White said.

“What it speaks to is the growing frustration in the Australian community about the continued support afforded this trade in the face of irrefutable cruelty against Australian animals.

“Without a doubt the eyes of Australians will be on our Federal Parliament this Thursday.

“All we ask is that the Prime Minister allows MPs a free vote so they can not only be a voice for their electorates but for the millions of animals subjected to the cruelty of live export every year.”

Both groups believe that never before has support to end the trade been as strong, following the airing of footage on the ABC’s Four Corners program of cattle being slaughtered in Indonesian abattoirs, which led to the month-long closure of the trade.

Last week the footage was called into question during the Senate inquiry into the live export industry.

WA Senator Chris Back told the inquiry he had been informed a taxi driver had arranged the mistreatment of the cattle with a bribe of 150,000 rupiah, and the abuse was then captured on video.

Mr Back said he had a signed affidavit from an Australian man who had spoken to the worker who was allegedly paid to kick and punch cattle being slaughtered for the camera and that this worker and his family had since been turned upon in retribution following the closure of the trade.

Mr Back said he would demand the committee inquiry be extended into the circumstances of how the footage was shown on national television and within days a campaign of emails led to the Indonesian live cattle trade ban.

Animals Australia has rejected the claims and defended the British cameraman who had taken the video.

Ms White said the allegations were not only baseless but professionally and personally insulting.

“To suggest that animal advocates would pay for animals to be treated cruelly is outrageous and offensive, ” she said.

“That Senator Back would air such obviously false allegations is profoundly disappointing and served only to deflect from the key issues that the Senate committee has been established to investigate — the horrendous treatment of cattle in Indonesia for more than a decade.”

Last week Animals Australia also announced it had recently completed an initial assessment of slaughter practices in Turkey.

While it said in a statement that the animals filmed could not be identified as Australian, it did say Australian cattle were slaughtered at the premises.

The footage and report was to be presented to Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig’s chief of staff last Wednesday, but as yet the results of the investigation have not been made public.

A statement was issued from Mr Ludwig’s office before the scheduled meeting, saying the footage would be considered as part of developing the new regulatory framework for Australia’s live export trade.

The Bill Farmer review into Australia’s live export markets would also influence the new framework with the report due by August 31.

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