Australia progresses on animal-welfare plan

by Bryan Salvage
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NORTH SYDNEY, Australia – Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) met with members of Parliament and Senators from all parties in intensive meetings during the last two days in Canberra on the industry's $9 million proposal handed to the government late last week. If adopted, the plan will allow for the progressive reopening of trade with Indonesia, said MLA Managing Director David Palmer.

"At the heart of the industry's package is a range of measures which will facilitate the reopening of trade to Indonesia with a renewed focus on animal-welfare standards," Palmer said. "It is important to everyone that animal welfare is front and centre in Indonesia. We do not have the authority to enforce laws in a foreign country, but MLA can work with the commercial operators who own the cattle, and the Australian and Indonesian governments, to direct our training and infrastructure resources to those facilities that will meet or exceed agreed animal welfare standards."

Some elements of the industry plan have begun to ensure that controlled supply chains are in place to assure the welfare of the cattle, thanks to efforts of the Industry-Government Working Group on Live Animal Exports.

Plan highlights include:

  • A requirement for Indonesian abattoirs processing Australian cattle to meet or exceed agreed international animal welfare standards in line with the World Organization for Animal Health, backed up by an audit of import facilities to ensure compliance.
  • Priority installation of additional stunning equipment – an additional four facilities have already had stunning equipment installed since the ban was announced taking the total to 11 facilities using stunning.
  • Together with Indonesian authorities, the redesign and upgrade of abattoir infrastructure to better facilitate more humane processing – alternative options are now being developed based on a Temple Grandin design that will allow for both stunning and processing in the standing position.
  • The urgent development of a traceability system with Indonesia to ensure that cattle are only being processed at accredited abattoirs.
  • Providing animal-welfare officers to be stationed at facilities processing Australian cattle – with 30 animal welfare officers receiving training this month.
  • A renewed focus on training of Indonesian abattoir workers to ensure that they are operating in the most humane manner – with eight Australian stock handling experts having already conducted intensive training programs over the past two weeks.

As a result of the recent meetings, Palmer believes there is now a sense of understanding of – and confidence in – industry's plan. "MLA and Australian livestock producers have put forward practical solutions which can protect a $1 billion industry, and also deliver higher animal-welfare standards," he concluded.

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