With the current diplomatic conflict between Australia and Indonesia over the "spying scandal", export of live cattle to Indonesia is again poised on a knife edge.
Once again, the vulnerability of the live export trade has been exposed. Whilst the threats may well just be bluff and come to nothing, farmers still face worrying uncertainty.
Live export for slaughter will always be an uncertain and volatile market. Its time to transition to the chilled meat trade and get behind the AACo abattoir in Darwin.
Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) grants worth $287,000 are now in limbo. AAWS was set up to develop long-term, comprehensive, national animal welfare policy on everything from livestock to companion animals and wildlife.
Last week, the Government removed AusAWAC, this week it freezes their funding. Logical of course...unless one happens to believe that long term improvement to animal welfare is in the best interests of the animals, owners, producers and governments!
The Federal Department of Agriculture has eight grants for projects this financial year that have now been suspended.
The latest from Mr Joyce: “We will be a responsible government. We will be a government that is not guided by Four Corners but is guided by the capacity to act diligently".
It is not diligent or responsible to scrap AusAWAC or an independent animal welfare inspector. As Professor Andrew Fisher comments, the government need to try to limit the damage to the political capital of not just the live export industry, but also Australia’s livestock farming industries in general. "One day, events may arise that require significant public investment and support... It may not be a direct trade-off, but one day Australia’s farmers may need their political capital and the residual goodwill of the Australian public more than they need the live export industry."
At a time when welfare regulations are clearly failing our animals, the Government has now scrapped the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AusAWAC). AusAWAC represents a wide range of stakeholders with knowledge and expertise across key animal welfare issues. It advises the Minister for Agriculture and drives the implementation of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. This is not just about live export it is about animal welfare in Australia, important for producers, welfare advocates and of course, our animals.
So what happens now to Australian Animal Welfare Strategy? Government attitude would seem to be "Who cares?".
Hot on the heels of the Middle East revelations, there is now footage of animal cruelty to Australian cattle in Mauritius. Exporter is International Live Exports. Animals Australia, the "auditor" and recorder of the cruelty.
This is not the first time Mauritius has been in the spotlight (see VALE Media release Jan 2013). VALE called for the government to halt exports to Mauritius on the basis that ESCAS unlikely to be met there. South Africa's NSPCA has also raised concerns about live export to Mauritius.
And the Australian Live Exporters Council is calling for an industry-run quality assurance program in place of government regulation?
In WA, the motion put to parliament by Rick Mazza, Shooters and Fishers Party member, was:
'For the govt to investigate as to whether the RSPCA is transforming from an animal welfare society to an animal rights activist group and is losing its original core values and community respect as a credible organisation.'
The debate primarily focused on RSPCA's continued lobbying to stop live exports.
Let us not forget that whilst no prosecutions followed, a routine live sheep export voyage to the Middle East was found to be cruel in a court of law in Western Australia and proven beyond reasonable doubt. If for no other reason than this, RSPCA must by its very name, oppose the live export trade.
Mr Joyce told a conference of beef and sheep producers and exporters in Townsville yesterday morning that the Government will scrap an independent animal welfare supervisor position which was promised by the former government to monitor the humane treatment of live exports.
Well he would, cant have anyone official exposing repeated government failures. Much better to nip this possible transparency in the bud ASAP.
So we lurch from bad to worse. An opportunity to try and improve animal welfare, to recognise problems early and intervene, and to build public confidence (surely something desirable in the industry....or can it not stand up to any scrutiny at all ) goes wasted.