Welfare focus turns to sheep

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

Australia’s $323 million live sheep export industry will have to comply with new welfare guidelines, similar to those developed for cattle in the wake of the shipping ban to Indonesia.

An Industry Government Working Group was formed last week to fast-track the new rules, aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of all live exports.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig announced the move during a visit to WA last week when he met members of the working group which includes representatives of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia, Australian Live Exporters Council, WA Live Animal Export Council, Livecorp, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Goat Industry Council.

The group will use work already underway in Indonesia ensuring closed cattle supply chains based on World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) guidelines to secure sheep supply chains in the Middle East and other importing countries.

MLA livestock exports manager Michael Finucan said the working group would identify and establish supply chains in the Middle East that were already operating at OIE standards.

“The working group had its first hook-up on Monday and to start with it will be developing clear guidelines of what is required, ” Mr Finucan said.

“Government is also discussing this process with all importing countries.”

Mr Finucan said the Federal Government had not yet announced any further funding to assist improving animal welfare in importing countries.

He said MLA would assess each importing country regarding existing MLA resources and determine whether further funding needed to be directed into certain markets.

“MLA has already put forward its $9 million plan to get Indonesia up and running — we will now be going through all other markets, ” Mr Finucan said.

He said that in the Middle East MLA had seven key people making up a core team of animal welfare officers who worked throughout the supply chain providing guidance on improving animal welfare from unloading to slaughter.

“Getting the right training and infrastructure at point of slaughter in the Middle East will be something we will continue to do, ” Mr Finucan said.

“Some abattoirs in the Middle East are very good. It will now be a matter of sitting down with exporters and prioritising the best way to work through all slaughtering facilities.

“There has been a lot of focus on sheep facilities in the Middle East but cattle have not been forgotten either.”

Mr Finucan said MLA had installed restraining devices for cattle in abattoirs in Qatar and Kuwait and also continued to work in Egypt’s closed system abattoir providing training and improving the performance of this facility.

He said MLA had not received any direct requests from Sheep Meat Council or other industry groups on where changes or improvements in the Middle East live sheep supply chain needed to occur. The process was more of a collaborative approach to each part of the industry’s expertise and experience.

Preliminary advice on the proposed measures to assure the welfare of live sheep exports is expected to be presented to Mr Ludwig by July 31.

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