GOVERNMENT backbenchers, animal rights groups and the Greens have used the public screening of a brutal cull of Australian sheep in Pakistan to renew their call for live animal exports to be banned.
Last night Four Corners screened footage that showed the cull of more than 20,000 sheep sent to Pakistan after being rejected by Bahrain over health concerns.
The sheep, exported by Wellard, were cleared by quarantine and independent tests, however Karachi authorities alleged the animals were unfit for human consumption and they were eventually culled.
Labor backbenchers, including Melissa Parke and Kelvin Thomson, on Tuesday again raised the need for an independent office of animal welfare, separate from the agriculture department.
Ms Parke also said that there were inherent risks when sending animals overseas and said it was time to move from live exports to a domestic meat trade.
”For industry to keep saying these are isolated incidents is simply not credible and the department, as regulator, has now conceded it cannot guarantee the welfare of animals sent overseas,” Ms Parke said.
”These animals are suffering for profit, it is immoral and unacceptable.”
RSPCA said the debacle was yet another chapter in a long history of shipments of live sheep being rejected and is a clear sign that the trade was not worth the risk.
RSPCA Australia chief executive Heather Neil said that despite the implementation of two different systems designed to protect live animals to the region, Australian animals weren’t being protected.
“Live export is a senseless trade – from both an animal welfare and economic perspective – and planning for a future without it is in the best interests of Australian animals and a sustainable livestock industry in this country,” she said.
Various industry bodies, appearing as a united front at a press conference in Parliament, defended live animal exports saying trade had voluntarily been suspended to Bahrain and Pakistan.
”Obviously we are here again in circumstances that we don’t want to be, I think the industry was once again very shocked last night by the footage,” National Farmers Federation president Jock Laurie said.
Industry defended new animal welfare rules which they said were improving welfare in other countries.
”But every now and again we have a hiccup in the system… so let’s make sure that we find a way to overcome that problem and that’s what we are asking to do here,” Mr Laurie said.
He said that the impact of less trade was affecting domestic sheep prices. Mr Laurie said the trade was worth $1.8 billion and employed 13,000 people.
The department of agriculture launched an investigation into the Pakistan saga last month, however it has yet to report back.
”Let’s just have a good sensible rational discussion around this, rather than an emotional discussion,” Mr Laurie said.Independent MP Bob Katter today urged Australians not to “submit to the emotional blackmail” being perpetrated in the media by the “hand-wringing, eye-daubing set”.
In a statement, Mr Katter said that the live exports outrage was coming at the expense of domestic industries and Australia’s global food obligations.
“If it is the ABC’s personal objective to destroy one of the major sources of protein – a basic building block of nutrition – for third-world countries; and to have an absolutely devastating effect on our sheep and cattle industries, well they’re doing a wonderful job of it,” he said.
“We will pay a terrible price for this moral arrogance.”
Mr Katter added there was also “a little touch of xenophobia” at play.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson today called the incident a “spectacular breakdown in the system”.
“[The sheep] were slaughtered brutally, and it is just an appalling situation,” he told Sky News.
“We cannot allow the treatment of animals in that way.”
With Judith Ireland
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