Labor MP to move to ban live cattle exports

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 9th September 2010

Federal Labor MP Janelle Saffin announced today that she plans to introduce a private members motion into Parliament to move for the banning of live cattle exports from Australia.

Saffin told ABC Rural that there was support in her electorate of Page in northern NSW on two fronts, with beef producers and processors opposing live exports, and animal welfare concerns bringing support from animal advocates.

Saffin also spoke in parliament in March this year, declaring the opposition of the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, the Casino Northern Cooperative Meat Company (in her electorate of Page) and local meat producers to the live export of cattle. Instead, Saffin supported moves to the expansion of the frozen and chilled meat export industry, particularly of Halal products.

A call to Saffin’s electorate office revealed that they had received four calls today regarding the motion from farmers, with two supporting the ban and two, who had investments in live exports, against.

Australia’s meat industry has been the victim of a number of closures in recent months, with meatworks suffering from lack of available stock, a high Australian dollar and recession in key markets.

In February, after the closures of three Australian abbatoirs, Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union federal secretary Brian Crawford said that he believed the live export trade was a factor in the closures.

“The live export trade is growing at an alarming rate, just keeps getting bigger and bigger and as a consequence processors are finding it very difficult to compete with the live trade because they don’t have the overheads the processors have,” he told ABC’s AM.

The welfare of Australian animals in the live export trade has been in the spotlight in recent months, with the as-yet unexplained deaths of 266 cattle on the Wellard Group live export ship MV Ocean Shearer in February this year.

In addition to welfare during shipping, concerns have been raised about the fate of Australian animals after they leave ships in foreign ports, with many destination countries not requiring Australia’s exacting slaughter welfare standards.

However, some cattle producers remain worried that a ban on live exports would flood the market and push down prices.

“A producer needs everything he can get out of his cattle, it’s very hard to make a living, and that would only build up more cattle on the processing operation here in Australia, and would only affect prices. We need all the trade we can get,” said one farmer told the ABC.