Fact: Live export represents just 0.4% of Australia's total exports. The chilled meat trade is already worth 12 times more to our economy than the live trade for slaughter. In 2013, Australian boxed beef exports set a new calendar year record and sheep meat exports grew exponentially.
Most farmers don't live export. Just 6% of cattle and 7% of sheep raised for slaughter in Australia last year actually went into the live export trade, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The vast majority of jobs currently supported by the live trade would still exist if livestock were being sent to local markets. Ending live export would in fact create jobs in Australia through increased domestic processing.
Fact: No other country has the capacity to export the number of disease-free animals of the size and type that Australia does. History has shown that when importing countries cannot get live animals from Australia (either because of drought impacting numbers available or suspensions due to cruelty or trade disputes) those countries simply increase their intake of chilled and frozen meat.
Live exports from Australia to Saudi Arabia have been replaced by the export of boxed meat, with beef exports to that country increasing 107% in 2013. Bahrain had entirely replaced live sheep with Australian sheep meat when trade disputes closed that market for 18 months. Meat exports to Qatar jumped 40% in 2012 and Jordan now imports 80% of its meat requirements as boxed product.
Sheep meat exports to the Middle East were in the 12/13 financial year worth $305 million more than live sheep exports. Beef exports to the Middle East and Africa jumped 51% in 2012, with exports to China also increasing by over 2,000% in the first quarter of 2013. Analysts predict Australia's boxed beef trade to Asia will replace live exports as consumer preferences change.
Fact: This is nothing but PR spin designed to maintain producer and government support. Australia's live export industry has had over three decades in the Middle East, nearly 20 years in Egypt and 18 years in Indonesia to effect change. Instead of contributing to positive animal welfare outcomes, this industry has been contributing to appalling outcomes by condoning the use of cruel slaughter boxes and supplying animals to the fear and suffering of fully conscious slaughter.
The most significant animal welfare improvements in importing countries have not been instigated by industry, but through Animals Australia exposing cruelty. The reason Australian cattle are no longer subjected to the cruelty of Mark 1 boxes in Indonesia, and stunning is becoming more widely accepted there, is because vision aired in Australia of the terrible distress animals were enduring. The reason most Australian animals in Jordan are now stunned prior to slaughter is because of Animals Australia's work in that country. The only reason it is now illegal for Australian sheep to be trussed and stuffed into car boots in 45 degree temperatures in the Middle East is because the practice was exposed on Australian television.
Continuing to send Australian animals to markets where we know they face the risk of systemic abuse is a seal of approval from live exporters for that unacceptable treatment.
Fact: Australia does not have to have a commercial trading relationship with importing countries to help improve animal or human welfare. Through the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Canada, the U.S. and Europe all provide assistance to improve animal welfare globally. The World Society for the Protection of Animals runs animal handling programs for local cattle in Indonesia. Animals Australia works with local animal protection groups and governments to help drive positive changes on the ground in countries from Jordan to Mauritius. Caring people and organisations in countries across the world are working to protect animals from cruelty, and will continue to do so once Australia stops knowingly sending animals into situations where they are exposed to abuse.
But let's acknowledge why Australia's live export industry is in these markets in the first place — it is not to improve animal welfare, it is to make money. Any significant improvements that have occurred in importing countries have been as a direct result of the public exposure of cruelty and have only occurred to quell community concerns and allow exporters to continue sending live animals to these destinations.
Fact: Australia already exports halal-certified boxed meat to every country to which we send live animals. The vast majority of this meat comes from animals who were stunned unconscious prior to slaughter, as required by Australian animal welfare standards.
Fact: In the Middle East, which includes Australia's largest export markets for live sheep, research indicates that there is near-universal household ownership of refrigerators. In the case of cattle, Indonesia is the biggest importer of live Australian animals, but even there, estimates of household refrigeration range up to 60%. With a rapidly growing economy and rising demand for access to chilled meat from modern supermarkets and hypermarkets, refrigeration is no stumbling block for a shift away from live export to Indonesia.