MLA seeks to sidestep compo call

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

Peak industry body Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) presented a $9 million animal welfare plan to progressively open the cattle trade to Indonesia to Federal Agricultural Minister Joe Ludwig last week.

The plan was MLA’s attempt to avoid being forced to spend $5 million to compensate those affected by the live export ban to Indonesia.

MLA managing director David Palmer re-stated this week that the body would not dip into its contingency funds to comply with Mr Ludwig’s request to pay compensation.

Mr Ludwig ordered MLA to stump up with the cash by the end of last week or he would use his legislative powers.

However, Mr Palmer said this money would be better spent on reopening the trade.

The plan also called for independent assessment and accreditation of Indonesian abattoirs against World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards; an audit of all sectors of the livestock import trade in Indonesia; and for feedlots and abattoirs to ensure suitable staff training, feed programs, management of cattle and slaughter practices.

Over the past two weeks, MLA and LiveCorp’s team of animal welfare experts have been working with Indonesian cattle importers.

A total of 11 Indonesian abattoirs are using stunning equipment, an increase from five.

As requested by the Indonesian Government, a review of abattoir infrastructure and design was also underway.

Mr Palmer said this would develop alternative options for the slaughter of cattle based on a Temple Grandin design, which allows for stunning and processing of animals in a standing position.

MLA also has a team of people developing a traceability system for cattle in Indonesia.

The plan has already come up against critics, with Independent MP Andrew Wilkie saying it was MLA’s responsibility to ensure beef farmers were not left out of pocket.

“They’ve been happy to take the money per head from producers and they’ve spent some of it on marketing and not much else,” Mr Wilkie said.

“It’s up to them to put their hands into what are very deep pockets and to help the industry get over ... this moratorium.”

Mr Wilkie blamed MLA for damaging Australia’s animal welfare record, saying the industry group needed to be brought into line. “Heads should roll at MLA,” he said.

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