Graffiti attack on NFF

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Barely a week after new animal cruelty allegations surfaced in Vietnam, graffiti slamming the live export trade has been plastered over parts of the building which houses the National Farmers Federation in Canberra.

Vietnamese importers had been accused of using sledgehammers on livestock in abattoirs, with two of them now banned from receiving Australian cattle as a result.

The slogan "Ban Live Exports" was spray painted across the NFF building sign, with more paint and foul language scribbled on the front and back entrance doors.

Speaking after the attack, NFF president Brent Findlay accused animal activists of far too commonly carrying out illegal attacks and resorting to the use of trespass, vandalism and threatening language to pursue a disingenuous commitment toward animal welfare.

But Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White said it would be plausible to assume the attack may not have necessarily been committed by an activist.

"Considering the further horrific cruelty which had just been exposed in Vietnam, it would be wrong to simply assume that this was an 'animal rights campaigner' and not a member of the public completely fed up that this trade continues," she said.

"We don't in any way condone this behaviour, however it's disturbing that three words painted on a wall have distracted focus from the dire need for the NFF to use their weight to call infighting exporters to account and demand they clean up the mess."

Ms White also said AA had been left with "little choice" than to embrace the role of "watchdog" organisation for live exports.

"What is clear is that the Department of Agriculture has no idea what is occurring in any importing country," she said. "They are reliant on paper audits which have at best been inaccurate and at worst been corrupted."

Ms White said her organisation has lodged 37 separate legal complaints in two years, without result.

"The current mess in Vietnam is a direct result of exporters having nothing to fear when breaches occur," she said.

"In extraordinary admissions exporters have freely admitted that 'everyone's operating outside the system' despite being keenly aware of the dire consequences for animals.

"Laws are meaningless unless there are appropriate repercussions for breaches that motivate compliance. And there have been none. Producers should be as outraged as we are."

However, Mr Findlay defended the industry as having strong animal welfare standards.

"As exporters, we recognise that there are risks to the welfare of Australian livestock if they leave approved supply chains," he said.

"This is why there are robust measures in place to strengthen control and traceability and to prevent facilities and importers who breach our standards from receiving Australian livestock.

"In addition exporters are actively helping to improve the way animals are handled and slaughtered in overseas markets by training more than 7500 workers and helping to improve facilities with more modern infrastructure and equipment.

"We respect the right of others to have different points of view, and we expect them to advocate those points of view in a constructive and lawful way."

Meanwhile, shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon has requested the Government increase transparency in export markets by delivering a quarterly ministerial report to Parliamentoutlining any new markets, number of head exported, allegations of breaches of animal welfare standards and investigations undertaken against those who have breached animal welfare standards.

He also asked for an independent inspector-general for animal welfare and live animal exports.

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