Industry moans, Govt backs down.....the story of live ex for over 30 years. Despite the recommendations of AVA and other groups, the new Australian Standards for Export of Livestock (ASEL), version 3.0 had only a slight increase in space allowance for cattle. Then on Nov 1, a few days before the implementation date of ASEL 3, DAWR has backed down on even those small improvements and reverted to ASEL 2.3 Why did we bother going through the review process at all one could ask?
Beef Central reports ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton saying cattle voyages have had excellent outcomes under existing ASEL 2.3 stocking densities and that amending the new ASEL regulations would not be to the detriment of animal welfare given the changes have already been delayed for 12 months and exporter performance has not declined in its absence.
Well the answer is - we wouldnt know the state of animal welfare on these voyages. Very few have vets, and both vets and stockpersons are employed by the exporter anyway. Independent observers were put on board and the Government then not only sanitised but covered up any reports of animal welfare concerns (see the FOI documents from a very routine but low mortality voyage - IO 197). Basically, despite this being hashed out over and over, LOW MORTALITY DOES NOT MEAN LOW SUFFERING. For the ultimate proof, just check IO55 (Shorthorn Express to China) where the animals were food deprived (food ran out) and water deprived (including when they were experiencing severe heat stress) , had pen overstocking, rough seas, an incompetent stockperson and animals killed by the bosun..... yet still had a low mortality voyage. COME ON GUYS....its 2020 and the public are not stupid. High mortality = problems. Low mortality does not equal no problems.
The Beef Central article estimates that the reduced stocking density could have had an economic impact of approximately $40 million to the cattle supply chains in northern Australia, with up to 130,000 less cattle being delivered to South East Asian markets. That's 130,000 less cattle facing stress, injuries, illness and death at the hands of the live export industry.