Exporters hailed for welfare drive

The West Australian

The reputation of Australian livestock exporters as world leaders has been confirmed in Darwin, as the sector's national conference LIVEXchange concluded on Thursday last week.

Keynote speaker and world- renowned animal welfare specialist Professor Temple Grandin presented her observations from her Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System tour, which coincided with her appearance at LIVEXchange and took in Northern Territory pastoral properties and cattle facilities, as well as Indonesian abattoirs and feedlots.

"The vastness of the Northern Territory plains blew me away and is clearly an area best suited to raising livestock," Professor Grandin said.

"And I got a better sense of why Australia supplies livestock to Indonesia from this visit.

"From the places I've visited, I can see that it's possible to do the right thing in Indonesia, even with relatively simple equipment."

Professor Grandin said the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011 was "a terrible time".

"What I saw in the video from 2011 was awful. But look how it has improved," she said.

"Slaughter in Indonesia is now light years ahead of where it was in 2011."

Professor Grandin also applauded Australian producers and exporters for their management of cattle, noting that modern animal welfare practices and good genetics had improved health outcomes for cattle throughout the supply chain.

She said cattle breeding programs in the future would need to continue to take into account an animal's susceptibility to heat stress and other physical risk factors.

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) director-general Dr Bernard Vallat said Australia should take the lead in instigating an international body to represent livestock exports.

"Australia's investments in improving animal welfare are welcomed and taking those improvements to the rest of the world certainly has OIE's support," he said.

"Governments, the private sector and international organisations can work together to successfully address societal expectations for animal welfare."

Schuster Consulting's Peter Schuster made a presentation about the Livestock Global Assurance Program, which is being piloted in livestock export markets.

The program is being developed as a global assurance, certification and conformity assessment program, which will foster world's best practice in the welfare and management of livestock in markets across the globe.

Fellow speaker Dayne Pratzky, the Australian anti-fracking activist known colloquially as "The Frackman", challenged the livestock export sector to respond to groups opposed to the industry.

"Get your stories out there, change the narrative," Mr Pratzky said.

"It's great to see the live export industry taking animal welfare seriously. It's clear to see the industry is learning and listening."

Australian Livestock Exporters' Council chairman Simon Crean heralded LIVEXchange as a success.

"One of the key messages from our international guest speakers has been how highly regarded the Australian livestock export industry is by the rest of the world, which is a significant strategic strength that should be taken advantage of," he said.

"The Australian livestock export industry should be very proud of where it sits, but not so proud that it ever becomes complacent about the need for continual improvement across the industry."

Reflecting the underlying confidence in the sector at the current time, trade exhibitors and sponsors of the convention also reported a very successful commercial period during their two days at the conference.

LIVEXchange concluded with the conference's gala dinner, which included the announcement of Ben Stanton as the winner of the young achiever of the year award and Bjørn Clausen as the latest recipient of the industry's lifetime achiever award. A special charity auction conducted at the dinner raised $61,800 to assist Rotary's work with the Rawinala Foundation in Indonesia.

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