MLA the scapegoat: Meerwald

Kate MatthewsCountryman

There will be fewer markets for live exports and lower volumes of cattle since the Four Corners program three weeks ago which showed Australian animals being treated cruelly in Indonesian abattoirs.

Wellard managing director Steve Meerwald told producers at a recent forum in Kojonup live exporters were given a clear message from Canberra that live export had to be done properly in line with the moral and ethical standards of the broader community.

“We were certainly not given the message this is a sunset industry or it’s going to close down, ” Mr Meerwald said.

In his speech, Mr Meerwald assured producers that most Australian cattle were not handled or slaughtered as depicted in the Four Corners and Animals Australia footage.

“The agenda isn’t animal welfare in Indonesia or Australia — it’s an agenda bent on putting animal production out of business and it doesn’t matter if you are a chicken, sheep or cattle farmer, ” he said.

Mr Meerwald, a supporter of Meat and Livestock Australia, said MLA had unfairly become the scapegoat and for the Federal Government not to acknowledge it knew what the standards were and the work that had been done to improve conditions was a travesity.

Last year Wellard exported 185,000 head of cattle from northern Australia to Indonesia. This year it will be much less.

But Mr Meerwald said they already had five importers whose standards were equal or better than in Australia with Australian Food Rating Standards and ISO9001 ratings with accreditation.

Last week, Wellard submitted a consignment risk management plan incorporating what the Federal Government wants, which included traceability, exporter control of animals to slaughter, auditabilty, verification and competency.

“From my meetings in Canberra last week, the expectation is exporters will be responsible for animals until the point of slaughter and it will be rolled out into all markets for all species, ” Mr Meerwald said.

Some markets, like Egypt, would be able to adapt quickly, but others were not built for that type of system, such as Saudi Arabia, he said.

In a more positive move, Wellard will be taking a consignment of 10,000 cattle from Broome destined for Indonesia to Egypt in July.

The company has also undertaken an alliance with other industry members to promote live export.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails