PGA plea for stranded cattle

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Pastoral cattle caught in the aftermath of the Federal Government’s decision to suspend live exports to Indonesia are still being held in AQIS feedlots.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) says 2000 cattle are at a Port Hedland pre-embarkation feedlot as well as 14,000 in Darwin and 1000 in Townsville.

The lobby group wants the trade suspension lifted and cattle to be shipped to Indonesia where they will go into a feedlot for 60 days before processing at abattoirs that use stunning.

The suspension was put in place after public outcry over animal cruelty footage in 11 Indonesian abattoirs.

Before this, PGA claimed contracts were in place with Indonesia for 20,000 WA cattle and 100,000 cattle across Australia.

It said Indonesian abattoirs that had invested to meet Australian standards were being penalised and delays in trade would deter other abattoirs from upgrading.

It’s estimated the cost to feed cattle in AQIS accredited feedlots is $4 to $8 a head daily.

Chris Back, a Liberal senator and vet who specialises in cattle welfare, told a joint party room meeting in Canberra on Tuesday there was an urgent need to come to the aid of export cattle at wharves and other places.

Senator Back said the trade should be resumed immediately to the six big abattoirs in Indonesia that currently exceeded international standards.

That would cater for about half of the 13,000 cattle currently on Australian wharves.

He said unless exports were resumed, within three to four weeks more than 150,000 cattle would be too heavy to be exported and too underweight to be brought south to domestic abattoirs.

He said unless they were to be shot they would have to be set loose on the rangelands of northern Australia, which would be an “animal welfare disaster”.

Cattle in the holding yards have been inspected by AQIS and are in good health.

In the interim, a Government and industry working group, met on Monday, to re-establish trade with Indonesia when sufficient safeguards could be guaranteed.

A spokesman for Mr Ludwig said while the suspension order was in place for six months, it would only apply as long as necessary to guarantee animal welfare outcomes.

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