Government accepts review findings

Kate Matthews with AAPCountryman

Exporters will have to guarantee the welfare of all livestock that leave Australia for slaughter - not just cattle to Indonesia - under new rules set down by the Federal Government.

An independent review into Australia's livestock export trade by former ambassador to Indonesia Bill Farmer set 14 recommendations for the domestic and overseas supply chain.

The review was released by Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig on Thursday last week, along with the Government's response and reports from the cattle and sheep industry-government working groups.

Senator Ludwig said the Government had accepted all 14 recommendations.

"The Government is committed to the live export industry and these reforms will provide stability for the industry and thousands of regional jobs," he said.

Under the new framework, exporters will need to ensure cattle, sheep and goats are handled and processed to internationally accepted standards established by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Animals must be able to be tracked and each supply chain - to be put in place and guaranteed by individual export companies - will be independently audited.

Animal welfare groups claim the recommendations fall short by not including mandatory stunning.

But Mr Farmer said he had witnessed stunning that fell short of international guidelines and when stunning was applied incorrectly, it was not a humane practice.

He admitted the new system could not guarantee that the mistreatment of animals would stop, but he said it would allow the Government to act swiftly - and without impacting other parts of the industry - on cases of mistreatment.

The review also recommended the individual identification of sheep and goats.

This sparked concern from groups such as the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, for which a system like the one used for Saudi Arabia would be preferable over the use of electronic tags.

The current inspection regime at Fremantle wharf will also be reviewed under the framework to ensure only livestock fit for export are taken to the wharf.

The report said there was evidence of numbers of out-of-specifications sheep being delivered to Fremantle wharf for loading onto ships due to special inspection arrangements adding pressure to the loading process.

Legislating enforceable welfare standards and increased auditing, reporting and training for Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service-accredited veterinarians would be introduced.

The Australian Standards for Export of Livestock will be reviewed to mitigate stock losses from adverse or hot weather and the role and function of the Livestock Export Standards Advisory Group will also be put under the microscope.

The Government has agreed in principle to Mr Farmer's recommendation to report to Parliament on the process, but pushed for this to occur in June 2014, a full year after implementation.

A total of $15 million has been allocated to implement the recommendations, including $10 million to introduce supply chain assurances and $5 million to encourage stunning.

"The new framework will be phased in and will be implemented in stages with 75 per cent of trade covered by February and for all trade by the end of 2012," Senator Ludwig said.

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