Welfare groups snub export review

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Animal protection groups have declined to comment on proposed changes to live animal export standards.

The Australian Government commissioned a review into the live export industry to coincide with the implementation of Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System in 2011, and has just completed receiving submissions from various groups on the development of minimum worldwide standards for the industry.

The Livestock Global Assurance Program committee was established in July 2014, consisting of specialists in the areas of project management, the live export industry, animal welfare, husbandry and behaviour, development and internationalisation of standards and conformity assessment programs, as well as the development and application of technology solutions.

Many within the industry have pinned hopes an industry-led animal welfare program would enable Australian exporters to be unshackled from excessive government oversight and be able to once a again take part in the billion-dollar Saudi Arabian live sheep trade.

High-profile protection groups Vets Against Live Export, Humane Society International, World Animal Protection and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and others have declined to provide comments on the development of Livestock Global Assurance Program standards in accordance with the process determined by the LGAP standards committee. World Organisation for Animal Health-endorsed group WAP was invited to sit on the committee.

VALE spokeswoman Dr Sue Foster highlighted some opposing sentiments of some animal welfare groups, saying her organisation is opposed to the industry and therefore not prepared to take part in the development of standards.

In an open letter to the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council, Dr Foster said the group opposed the industry's proposal to dilute regulation of animal welfare standards in live export.

The letter, which was addressed to council chief executive Alison Penfold, said it was a fundamental principle of animal welfare that animals used for food should be slaughtered as close to their source as possible and the live export of animals from Australia was inconsistent with that principle.

The letter also said live export was unacceptable to the Australian public because of the treatment of animals in overseas destinations.

Ms Penfold told _Countryman _it was important all stakeholders in the debate contributed to the development of continuously improving standards.

"Even if people that hold an ethical dilemma about the industry put their end objectives to the side. They have the opportunity to contribute to improving and strengthening minimum worldwide animal welfare standards," she said.

Kojonup producer and Sheep Industry Leadership Council president Rob Egerton-Warburton said animal protection organisations were not interested in taking part in the industry.

"I believe if an animal protection group becomes involved in helping to improve animal welfare within the industry it takes away their ability to be opposed to it," he said.

Mr Egerton-Warburton said apart from animal welfare standards, the industry was also at risk from politics.

"Labor has to appeal to the Green vote and the live export industry is an easy target because it is an emotive issue that appeals to a sometimes ill-informed urban demographic," he said.

Animals Australia and the RSPCA have made submissions.

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