Veterinary surgeon and master mariner, Dr Peter Kerkenezov describes live animal export as "a story of corporate profiteering, politics, deceptive information and profound cruelty" in in a recent media report.
"The truth is that there is a very dark side to this trade and there is no way that live animal export can be ethical," he wrote in an article published last month in the Sydney University journal Control and Therapy.
He described the relatively poorly equipped vessels staffed by foreign crews and noted that they were rarely captained by an Australian. Ventilation and heat stress issues were described.
Contrary to the report in The Daily Examiner, Dr Kerkenezov served as a vet on live export vessels in 2002 and 2003 (not 1982!) and has been master on other types of merchant ships carrying livestock (horses and cattle). He is not a "former mariner" as he is still an actively engaged master mariner (unlimited ship size and area of operation) in the merchant navy. His master's certificate is the highest certification in Australia.
Dr Kerkenezov's courageous article and stance should be an example to all veterinarians. Thank you Dr Kerkenezov.
A new committee, "The Live Export Steering Committee" has its sights set on creating an export market from Port Alma to China and Vietnam. Supported by Keppel MP Bruce Young, the premier and...of course Gladstone Ports (because it couldnt hurt them!), this selfish plan would cost 100s their jobs in Rockhampton.
Teys Australia, the local abattoir is one of the biggest employers in the region. They confirm that jobs would be lost if the plan goes ahead. Shades of what happened in the 1970s with about 15 northern abattoirs forced to close due to live export.
Contrast 2011 live ex suspension to Indonesia and the plight of pastoralists on every newspaper. Have we ever seen the distressed abattoir workers and their families plastered on the front pages of our papers when live-ex forces them out of the jobs. Answer no....not in 40 years...despite widespread hardship caused to their lives by the live ex trade. Clearly in Australia, farmers matter and people in the dirty jobs that keep farmers going, dont!
Exporters have lashed out at Darwin export costs. Inefficient port procedures and scheduling is apparently leaving exporters facing exorbitant demurrage costs that in some cases has eroded the entire profit margins on charter shipments before they had even loaded. Oh dear.
However, reality is, that its just more bellyaching. If the situation is so bad, why are Australian live cattle exports on track to achieve the highest single-year volume on record (MLA mid year projections). Must be because the trade is SO unprofitable.
Egypt has been given the all-clear to take not only feeder and slaughter cattle but sheep and goats as well, for both breeding and slaughter.
Guess now that Egyptian vet, Mahmoud Abdelwahab is out of the way, live-ex can resume knowing there is not likely to be any whistleblowing. Who would dare speak up knowing they may have to flee their home and risk their family's safety?
So, we try again....until the next atrocities somehow get revealed by someone....which, in Egypt, they undoubtedly will.
The ABARES Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey (AAGIS) 2014 highlights the need for government to focus on supporting Aussie farmers who produce high quality animals for the domestic slaughter and processing industry. Currently 94% of sheep and 93% of beef cattle produced in Australia are slaughtered here.
Overall, Australian livestock producers receive just 7% of their income from the sale of animals to the live export industry.
Exports of sheep meat to the Middle East increased by more than 150% between 1990 and 2013 and meat exports from Australia are currently worth 9 times that of live exports.
Time to look after the majority and not the minority. Be interesting to see how much government money goes into live export promotion and regulation compared to domestic....is it disproportionate? Almost certainly. Could we be propping up drought farmers if we werent spending so much money on live-ex? Who knows?
According to the ABARES Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey (AAGIS) 2014, of an estimated 1500 farm businesses identified as beef cattle specialists in the northern live cattle export region, only around 180 derived more than half their receipts from live exports in the three years ending 2012–13. Those most reliant on the live export trade were located in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia and the upper western portion of the NT. That is only 180/1500 properties (or 12%).
The report confirms the high level of risk associated with the live export industry and the increasing potential for this cruel trade to be replaced with exports of chilled or frozen meat. It highlights for many export markets there are no religious, cultural or logistical hurdles to accepting meat export.
When ALEC became angry about proposed increased charges to cover Dept of Ag (DAFF) administrative costs, the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Mr Joyce, a strong supporter (and promoter) of the live export trade was forced to respond.
DAFF produced their figures and it turns out that DAFF currently spends $10.1m a year in live animal export certification and ESCAS services, but only recover $6.5 million to pay for those services. No guess as to who pays the shortfall....the Australian taxpayer. And now the exporters want this subsidised or they will go broke.
When is the Australian Productivity Commission going to examine the true economic gain or loss from this trade? Such a review is long overdue. Many businesses would love to be propped up to the tune of 3.5 million/year taxpayer money. If the live export industry is so essential to the Australian economy (as is always claimed) then it shouldnt be so extensively subsidised....any industry can be profitable with government handouts!
And then of course, there is the not-for profit policing of ESCAS done by Animals Australia....another free "service" to the industry...but one they would happily dispense with!
Unhappy with the new charges proposed by the Dept of Ag, Ms Penfold of Australian Live Exporters Council (ALEC) has requested "an urgent package of changes to offset the costs that now threaten the viability and sustainability of the live trade". Taxpayer funded changes?
ALEC question the efficiency of the department...and VALE would have to agree (nice to have some common ground). Perhaps DAFF would consider outsourcing the documentation and certification for live export to VALE. VALE would be most happy to provide a competitive tender and we could guarantee careful checking, diligence, timely turnarounds and meticulous filing for all certification, voyage reports etc at a fraction of the cost!