THE head of an independent review into live exports has backed the government’s decision not to make stunning mandatory in the slaughter of Australia animals overseas, saying the practice is not universal and can still be inhumane.
Former departmental secretary Bill Farmer released the report of his investigation into the industry today as Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig confirmed a series of reforms to the $1 billion a year trade, reported by The Australian today.
The new arrangements will see extra transparency measures in place for live cattle exports to Indonesia – introduced in the wake of graphic ABC Four Corners footage – extended to all markets, including Asia and the Middle East, and will also cover the live-sheep and goat export industries.
The changes, which represent an unprecedented shake-up of the industry, will be staggered over the next 14 months to avoid mass disruptions.
Mr Farmer said the review examined animal killing practices overseas – with and without stunning – that met animal welfare guidelines.
“We also saw practices, both stunning and non-stunning, that fell far short of the OIE guidelines. Stunning applied incorrectly is not a humane practice,” he said.
“There is not universal acceptance of stunning, including under our own guidelines in Australia.”
Mr Farmer said he did see a “very significant move in Indonesia” to introduce stunning and by August, 30 abattoirs there had introduced the practice.
Senator Ludwig said the government had accepted all 14 recommendations made by Mr Farmer.
“The government is committed to the live export industry and these reforms will provide stability for the industry and these reforms will provide stability for the industry and thousands of regional jobs,” Senator Ludwig said. “The new framework will be phased in and will be implemented in stages with 75 per cent.
But RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said she was “profoundly disappointed” that un-stunned slaughter would continue, saying Mr Farmer failed to address this issue.
“The fact that the number of Australian cattle that will be stunned in Indonesia is expected to grow from 8 per cent to around 90 per cent in just six months shows that it’s entirely possible to overcome any perceived barriers when the incentive is there,” Ms Neil said.
“The government needs to make it clear to the export industries that if they don’t announce targets for stunning, by country, and act themselves, they will make it a requirement.”