Nick Perry ; AAP ; November 07, 2012
CAN note: it is not our usual practice to include animal welfare stories outside of cats and dogs, but this particular article on the live export matter caught our eyes. We have highlighted the sentences that relate to Labor Ministers who are pushing for the establishment of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare. If this takes off, it could and should include companion animals, which could be a huge step in the right direction. At the end of the article, we include email addresses for MPs Zappia and Thomson.
THE federal government is under mounting pressure from within the Labor caucus to phase-out the live animal export trade, after 21,000 Australian sheep were slaughtered in Pakistan.
Questions have again been raised over the trade after footage emerged of the sheep being brutally culled – with some buried alive – by authorities in Karachi.
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig described the cull as a distressing but “isolated incident” that didn’t reflect the industry as a whole.
But Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson rejects this, saying he will push for the establish of an independent office of animal welfare when a Labor caucus working group on live animal exports next meets, hopefully before parliament resumes.
“How many isolated incidents will it take until we know this has to stop?” he told AAP on Wednesday.
Fellow Labor backbencher Darren Cheeseman said he would be encouraging the live animal exports working party to recommend an end to live exports altogether.
Processing animals in Australia and sending boxed meat abroad would protect animals, create jobs and boost the industry, he added.
“I think the best safeguard for Australian animals is to transition away from live animal exports,” Mr Cheeseman said in a statement.
“I would support a phased transition away from live exports and, as a member of the Labor Party caucus working group on live animal exports, I will be working with my colleagues to see if we can make something like this work.”
Pakistani officials argue the cull was necessary because the sheep were diseased but this has been denied by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).
Australia’s live export industry has voluntarily suspended shipments of sheep to Pakistan and Bahrain as DAFF investigates to establish what went wrong.
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) said the controversial cull was not evidence the new exporter supply chain assurance system (ESCAS) was failing to ensure animal welfare standards.
ESCAS was introduced after footage last year showing Australian cattle being mistreated in Indonesian abattoirs prompted a public outcry, resulting in a temporary ban on those live exports.
Mr Thomson, who moved a parliamentary motion to end the trade after the Indonesian scandal, said ESCAS was meant to ensure exporters had a backup plan to underpin animal welfare at all costs.
“If you have a look at what happened in the case of these sheep, the plan B was a disaster,” he said.
Labor backbencher Tony Zappia said he would speak with his caucus colleagues in the coming weeks about how best to push for the formation of an independent animal welfare office.
The caucus working group could be in a position to put a firm proposal to minister Ludwig’s office soon, he added.
While the proposed animal welfare regulator would be limited to enforcing standards within Australia only, it would at least be independent.
“Acting independently, and without any interference or any influence from any other party, I believe would put it in the best possible position to make decisions in respect to animal welfare,” he told AAP.
Please write to offer your support for this initiative:
Tony Zappia: Tony.Zappia.MP@aph.gov.au
Kelvin Thomson : Kelvin.Thomson.MP@aph.gov.au