The Keniry Report (2004) commented that the live animal export was "uniquely and inherently risky".
And it is...political disputes and standoffs, extreme climatic conditions including heat stress events, wild seas, mechanical failure, disease ....and now, piracy.
Whilst the threat of piracy has been relatively low the last couple of years, live export ships were frequently exposed to the risk between 2005 and 2012. Then there was some relief.....but the threat is now back again.
So just add piracy to that list of inherent and unique risks.
Matt Journeaux's insightful opinion piece in Beef Central definitely puts the economic case for local processing over live export. Yes, he works in the meat industry so by definition will have a conflict of interest. But....its a no brainer that LE is hurting local jobs and local economy and that the repercussions of unabated LE, especially with cattle numbers at such a low, are not going to be good for anyone. Producers need to remember that chasing that short-term dollar could hurt them severely in the long-run. History has and will repeat itself in live export.
And ...oh yes, then there are the animal welfare issues which have been present since LE began.
Now South Australia being hit hard it seems....and no longer just Teys with JBS Australia also job cutting at South Australian abattoirs....
How long will it take for the LE trade to bleed abattoirs dry? Is it too far back to remember that the ultimate collapse of the northern abattoirs was due to live export....and when the northern live export trade itself collapsed in 2011....there was nowhere to go.
The Australian domestic and export meat market are worth way more to the Australian economy than LE (in 2014, live export was worth $734 million and meat export was worth $9.4 billion). Are politicians, federal and state, really going to sit back and watch LE trash the economy?
So, here we have it. The industry really cares about its animals. So much so that it will truck them to Fremantle Port, load them on a ship prone to mechanical failure, let them sit for 12 days in (and a bit out of) port often in very high temperatures whilst said failures are addressed, take them out to sea to get everything looking nice for a RSPCA visit (or the VALE visit that didnt happen!), then unload them (risking Australian biosecurity), truck them back to the feedlot then after a month, load them back onto trucks (at least one of which was loaded appallingly as witnessed by VALE at Fremantle Port on Saturday 13th Feb), take them back to Fremantle Port to be reloaded on another boat.....to go long haul to the Middle East.
Yep, no doubt about it, animal welfare is a real priority for this industry.
Apparently the LE trade supports about 10000 jobs...at least according to industry sources....
Well, Teys abattoir, in its Wagga abattoir alone employs 800 and supports another 3000 in the area. Whats more, this one plant contributes $512 million annually to the regional economy ie it contributes about half of the whole LE industry income. And it is now being directly impacted by the live export trade.
What are we doing in this country? In addition to inflicting suffering on millions of Australian animals, this trade is now hurting Australian jobs and the Australian economy. If only for economic reasons, this trade must come under the spotlight and the Productivity Commission must investigate.
The old argument that the live exporters sourced cattle whose breed, age or weight were generally unsuited to profitable processing in Australia can finally be put to bed. Live exporters are sourcing cattle in direct competition to processors and, for the extra return of a few cent per kilo to the farmer, jobs are lost and animals are exposed to all the inherent welfare risks in oversea shipping and slaughter. It's time for the government to take some leadership on this issue for sound economic and ethical reasons but with Barnaby in control no-one should be holding their breath.
The real Bass Strait tragedy
Certainly an animal welfare disaster when 59 out of 200 or so cattle die during a Bass Strait crossing in an open boat in high seas. However, possibly worse still if one looks at the general picture....ie were these non-prime beef cattle (eg in poor condition after the Tassie drought) or were they "cast for age" dairy cows, too old to be milked any more?
Greenham's website states that its Tongala plant in Victoria is Non-Halal and processes mainly cast-for-age dairy cows for export to the USA.
Difficult to comprehend that the most "hard-working" of all Australian cattle, with the most human contact, could end their days rewarded with a rough sea crossing before they get slaughtered...for hamburger meat! VALE maintains that animals should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible.
So, the cracks are finally appearing. Domestic processor Teys Australia has laid some blame on live export for lack of processing cattle. No surprises, ALEC arent happy. But given the number of jobs at stake and the value adding of domestic processing, we believe it is time that the Productivity Commission investigate the true worth of live export to the Australian economy.
Check the photo of livestock transport on the Searoad Mersey operating out of Devonport on 30.3.2015. Apparently it is fine just to leave sheep trucks parked on this unacceptable angle onboard. Whilst admittedly it makes little difference whilst sailing (provided internal gates shut) as every angle will occur due to sea movement (just one of those delightful welfare issues of sea transport of stock), these sheep, had to cope with being parked on an incline during the loading period (photo taken two hours before sailing) and the unloading period (probably also some hours). So, discomfort before and after a voyage which is known to be difficult for stock, as acknowledged in the guidelines.
And, could it be that there are more livestock trucks behind the upper green hull/ partition on the lower level?
No potential for cross breeze if so.....lucky Bass Strait is usually pretty breezy as it was on that day.
Amazing to think LE is fine when we cant even get it right across Bass Strait, in Australian ships, under Australian jurisdiction.
Fifty nine cattle out of about 200 transported across Bass Strait, died or were euthanased on arrival. And yes Sunday night was stormy....but thats not uncommon in Bass Strait. Under the guidelines, Master has the call as to whether it is safe to ship......But regardless, why were they being transported......to get the extra bucks from a Vic abattoir? OR the extra bucks to go into the international LE trade? Either way, tragic, greedy and unnecessary. There are very good abattoirs in Tas so unless there was no kill space, this is a case of farmer greed and profits over welfare.