• Notice of Motion-Live Export Industry

    LIVE ANIMAL EXPORT INDUSTRY

    This Motion was OBJECTED to and debated by the Government. Read the full debate.

    (1) That this House condemns the live animal export industry, which has a 40-year history of systemic animal cruelty causing suffering and death.

    (2) That this House notes that the recent Animals Australia exposé of the extreme suffering of sheep confined on the Awassi Express by Emanuel Exports highlights the ongoing national scandal of animal cruelty by the live export industry being:

    (a) animals starving to death from inanition;

    (b) animals dying from overcrowding, which caused the inability to access food and water;

    (c) animals dying of heat stress from high temperatures due to climatic extremes;

    (d) animals forced to stand in their own excrement for periods of up to a month, causing respiratory distress and blindness from ammonia fumes; and

    (e) multiple and persistent breaches of Australian animal welfare laws.

    (3) That this House congratulates Faisal Ullah, the Awassi Express assistant navigator, for performing a brave and merciful act of public service by recording the scenes of misery and suffering of sheep aboard the sheep.

    (4) That this House calls upon the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair, to meet with the Federal Minister for Agriculture to convey this House’s deep disgust at the continued breaches of Australian animal cruelty laws, and to advocate for a ban on live animal exports.

    (5) That this House calls on the Government to prohibit the land transport of animals to New South Wales ports or other States for the purpose of boarding onto live export ships.

    MARK PEARSON:

    The live export industry cannot save itself from itself, and no government of any persuasion has ever been able to save the live export industry. We cannot accept those constant statements from Ministers for agriculture over the years. Even the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, refers to this as “one incident”. The reality is that there is a litany of incidents in live exports. The reality is that if Faisal Ullah had not documented what happened on this ship this would not have been an incident.

    In June 2016 there was footage of cruelty in Vietnam where cattle were being bludgeoned to death at the port of disembarkation. In January 2016 a ship was stranded outside of Fremantle, hardly out of Australian waters, and the welfare of 13,000 sheep and cattle was extremely compromised. In fact, 7,500 sheep and 5,500 cattle perished. In June 2015 there were allegations of cruelty to cattle at an Israeli abattoir. On 22 October 2014 there was footage of Australian sheep and cattle being slaughtered outside approved abattoirs in Kuwait, Gaza and Jordan, and Wellard had to cease the Jordan trade. The list goes on and on. From January to February 2014 4,000 sheep were reported to have died of heat stress on the Bader III. From November to December 2013 there were allegations of animal cruelty when footage was taken of bulls being abused prior to slaughter in Mauritius, and of brutal methods of cattle slaughter in Gaza. On 8 November 2013 the Federal Government abolished the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

    The mortality rates in live export are a clear measure of the savagery of the live export industry. On long haul voyages, an investigation is triggered only when mortality rates of 2 per cent for sheep and 1 per cent for cattle are reached. On a voyage involving 70,000 sheep, 1,400 animals must die before the cause of the deaths is investigated. In the past five years, 32 sheep voyages have had a mortality rate of more than 1 per cent when the industry average is 0.74 per cent, yet only three of them triggered an investigation.

    Let us look at this mortality rate—a mortality rate that is stipulated for an average journey of three weeks. Let us apply this mortality rate on a property carrying, say, 10,000 sheep and apply that to a per annum mortality rate. An acceptable mortality rate on ship over three weeks is 1.9 per cent. If that were on a property carrying 10,000 sheep, per annum that would equate to 33 per cent of the animals perishing. If the proposed acceptable rate for sheep becomes 1 per cent, which it is for cattle now, 0.9 per cent is equivalent to a 16 per cent mortality rate of sheep—1,600 sheep—dying on a property over one year. When we measure what mortality rates actually represent, we are seeing an animal welfare disaster—a routine event in the live export trade.

    Dr Roger Meischke was the first veterinarian appointed by the Federal Government to carry out an investigation on a live export ship in the early 1980s. He made it very clear that the mortality rate is clearly a measure of the suffering of those sheep that died, but with such high mortality rates it is also a measure of the impacts of welfare on all the animals that are trying to survive—they are suffering in a way which is not acceptable according to Australian laws that are about the prevention of cruelty to animals. Every time thousands of sheep are loaded onto a ship and sent out of Australian waters to the Middle East, that ship is carrying thousands of sheep which will gradually suffer cruelty, distress and death in a way that is totally unacceptable and would be prosecutable if it were to occur on Australian land and where Australian jurisdiction exists.

    Why do I ask the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair, to address this issue with the Federal Minister? The Minister for Primary Industries serves on the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum [AGMIN]. Membership of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum comprises Australian State, Territory and New Zealand government Ministers with responsibility for primary industries. It is chaired by the Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The role of AGMIN is to enable cross-jurisdictional cooperative and coordinated approaches to matters of national interest. AGMIN is the peak forum to collaborate on priority issues of national significance affecting Australia’s primary production sectors. Following recent actions from the Australian Government to improve the welfare of animals during live export—which is impossible—members discussed a future work program for animal welfare, including the process by which national standards are further developed. It is critical for the Minister for Primary Industries to have an effect on the plight of live animal exports.

    The Australian Veterinary Association [AVA] has just released a report on the recent incident of the deaths of so many sheep on the Awassi Express, which was exposed only a few weeks ago. It is the first time the Australian Veterinary Association has taken such a stand against live exports of sheep. It has released a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the role of heat stress and space allowance in contributing to poor welfare and mortality in the live sheep export trade. The report concludes that heat stress causing poor animal welfare and deaths is an inevitable consequence of sheep shipments to the Middle East during the northern summer. This is because the temperature and humidity encountered at that time overwhelms the ability of the animals to thermoregulate.

    The report also concludes that space allowances under the Federal legislation governing the exports are inadequate. The report makes several recommendations, including that the northern summer shipments of sheep to the Middle East be stopped, and that space allocations for those shipments at other times of the year be increased by 30 per cent. The Federal Minister cannot misunderstand this recommendation by believing that it is in relation to heat stress; it is not. The Australian Veterinary Association has said it is not acceptable for sheep to be able only to stand and never to rest or lie down, and that is the main reason that there needs to be an increase of 30 per cent.

    Even though the Animal Justice Party and many of my constituents would prefer that we do not turn our mind to the issue of animals that are exported live instead being slaughtered in Australia, the reality is that the slaughter of animals for food production in Australia is lawful. Australia has welfare requirements in abattoirs which, if strictly adhered to, dramatically improve the welfare of the animals that are going to be slaughtered. It is not acceptable for us to send animals that have been reared on farms in Australia—animals which farmers say they love and care about—up a gangplank onto a ship on a 2½ to 3½ week journey from Australian waters into waters over which we have no jurisdiction and into countries where Australia has no jurisdiction over animal welfare. Many of the importing countries have no animal welfare laws. It is unconscionable for the people in charge of these animals to participate in any part of live export because when we do that we are contributing to the animals undergoing immense suffering and distress.

    Imagine a sheep in Lightning Ridge being put onto a truck, transported thousands of kilometres to Port Adelaide and sent up a gangplank onto a ship which sails to Fremantle. The sheep stays onboard for two or three days while other sheep and cattle are being loaded at Fremantle, and it then travels across the seas for to 2½ to 3½ weeks to the Middle East. There it is trucked from, say, Aqaba to Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Kuwait or other Middle Eastern countries. It is then transported by land across these territories to various abattoirs. The sheep endures all this just to be killed. It is utterly absurd.

    The economics of sheep live export is of interest. Fewer than two million sheep are sent for live export each year, mostly to the Middle East. Of these about 1.64 million, or 82 per cent, leave from Western Australia. Twenty-eight per cent of the Western Australian turn-offs go to live export. The bulk of the rest of the Western Australia turn-off, 72 per cent, goes for export as sheepmeat. Because of that, the major impact of any change in the live export of sheep from Australia will only be in Western Australia. Australia is not the largest exporter of live sheep to the Middle East. It has significant competition from Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti.

    The total value of the live sheep export market is about $250 million, while the value of the sheepmeat exports—lamb and mutton—is about $2.65 billion. Thus the live export of sheep accounts for less than 10 per cent of the value of sheepmeat exports and about 6 per cent of the value of all sheep and lamb exports. About 411 kilotons of sheepmeat is exported each year and, of that, about 20 per cent goes to the Middle East, mostly by airfreight as chilled meat.

    Several important conclusions can be drawn from this. First, the significant export of chilled sheepmeat to Middle Eastern countries indicates that there is no shortage of refrigeration in those countries. A 2014 survey by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics concluded that in the Middle East, substitutability between Australian live sheep and sheepmeat imports has increased in recent years, largely reflecting growth in incomes, urbanisation, refrigeration and the availability and popularity of Western‑style supermarkets. This is underscored by the experience of Bahrain, which stopped importing Australian sheep in 2014, after which sheepmeat imports from Australia increased twofold and also brought significant income to New South Wales.

    It is time for live export be relegated to the scrap heap of history, where it belongs. This industry has been in question and has had numerous investigations going back to the 1970s and 1980s by the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare. Every Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare has concluded that the live export trade is untenable. It can never reach and maintain welfare standards that are acceptable under Australian laws. Therefore, it is unconscionable and unacceptable for us to put animals that we have reared and cared for in Australia up a gangplank, onto a ship and send them off into peril. The live export industry must be relegated to the scrap heap of history once and for all.

  • Productivity Commission Final Report Into Australian Agriculture

    Last week the Productivity Commission publicly released its Final Report into Australian Agriculture Regulations. Among other industry concerns regarding land, water and natural resources use, food labelling, and GMO, the Report also gave a thorough overview of the state of play when it comes to farmed animal welfare in Australia. It was heartening to see such articulate and professional submissions made on behalf of farmed animals and the unnecessary suffering they endure each and everyday.

    The Animal Justice Party submitted a detailed response to the draft report highlighting the Party’s views on an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, live export and state based animal cruelty legislation. In addition many other organisations such as Animals Australia, PETA Australia, Vegan Australia, Animal Liberation, World Animal Protection, Voiceless and Animal Defenders Office echoed the need for a drastic overhaul of how the community expects farms animals should be treated. However, it is still disappointing to note that most of the environmental groups seem to be still in denial about the massive adverse impacts animal agriculture is having on our climate, biodiversity and emissions.

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    Given the overwhelming consistency within the submissions in regards community expectations concerning farmed animal welfare, it is pleasing to see the Final Report note these concerns and make recommendations in-line with the general public. For too long industry has had the political advantage of drafting its own rules, regulations and responsibilities with the main focus being on boosting profit. Below is a brief overview of some of the Final Report recommendations for animal welfare.

    • Animal welfare regulations are to be reformed so as to achieve welfare outcomes that (among other things) meet community expectations. However, the current process for setting standards for farmed animal welfare does not adequately value the benefits of animal welfare to the community.
    • The process for setting standards would be improved through the creation of a statutory agency responsible for developing national farmed animal welfare standards using rigorous science and evidence of community values for farmed animal welfare.
    • Conflict of interest is an issue — the main concerns were disproportionate industry influence and perceptions of conflicts of interests of agriculture departments (that are responsible for farmed animal welfare policy).
    • After closely considering submissions and evidence from hearings on this matter, the Commission maintains the view that the most effective approach would be to establish an independent statutory agency — the Australian Commission for Animal Welfare (ACAW) — with responsibility for developing the national standards — the standards would be implemented and enforced by state and territory governments.

    A copy of the Final Report can be found HERE, go straight to Section 5 for Animal Welfare. It is important to note that much of what has been documented in the report is still a far cry from what is expected by the majority of the public, however, it is a positive sign that the voice for animals grows stronger by the day and will get even stronger with more Animal Justice Party elected representatives.

    In light of the release of the report, our single AJP MP, Mark Pearson, questioned the NSW DPI Minister on the reports recommendations and how NSW would respond. As the below video and transcript shows, the Minister is still in the hands of industry and not representing the NSW public’s concerns about animal welfare.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries. The recently published recommendation 5.1 of the Productivity Commission final report into Australian agriculture strongly endorsed the establishment of an independent statutory agency which would meet community expectations of accountability, transparency and high animal welfare standards.

    In light of this recommendation and given the Minister’s often stated confidence in the robustness of New South Wales’ animal cruelty laws and enforcement authorities, as well as the Government’s commitment to deliver on community expectations, will the Government establish an independent statutory body for animal welfare in New South Wales, and if not, why not?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. As Minister for Primary Industries, I have stated on many occasions in this House that we take animal welfare seriously. We believe that most of the participants within our industries take animal welfare seriously as well, which is why, quite often, we have allowed most of the system improvements and animal welfare improvements in New South Wales to be led by the industries that know them best. Good animal welfare practice is good farming practice when it comes to our primary industries. The Hon. Mark Pearson made mention of the Productivity Commission’s report. The Productivity Commission made a number of recommendations in areas concerning primary industries.

    The New South Wales Government takes note of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations but at times we can look at those recommendations and see that we have a system that is better suited to New South Wales. One has only to look at the recent decision of the Government to continue rice vesting in New South Wales, although it was contrary to the Productivity Commission’s recommendation when it looked at that issue. Likewise, when it comes to animal welfare we believe the systems and the agencies in New South Wales are adequate. At the moment they are serving their purpose. Because the Productivity Commission has looked at it and said one thing does not mean we have to go down that path. We always look at what is best for business and industry in New South Wales. We have the ability to take the recommendations of the Productivity Commission on board but we also have the ability to review our systems and current measures, and if they are adequate we will continue with those.

    I have faith in our systems in New South Wales. I have faith in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. I also have faith in the agencies under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that are responsible for the enforcement of animal welfare. I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I know he is extremely interested in this area and I know he has a different view from me. He does not have the same faith in those agencies because he has been influenced by his past interactions with them. As I said, we look at what others research and find, and then we look at those issues through the lens of what is best for New South Wales. We did it with rice vesting, and it is what we are doing with animal welfare.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister please elucidate how the New South Wales approach to this report is either the same as or an improvement on the recommendations of the Productivity Commission?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: The New South Wales approach is the best approach for New South Wales.

  • No place for celebrating animal cruelty in Mardi Gras

    As a young man still in his teens, I joined with friends from Newcastle and became one of the group of 78ers that participated in the first Mardi Gras. It was a distressing but also a celebratory experience. I remember looking at the police as they were arresting people and putting them into paddy wagons. To one officer I said, “I think one day the police will actually march with us in this parade.” He said, “You might be bloody right, son, but you better get out of here or you will end up in that paddy wagon.” I was lucky to escape a beating and my prediction about the police was quite prescient given the oppression gays and lesbians experienced from those in authority at that time. Now, of course, it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when the police march at Mardi Gras. It is heartening to witness such positive changes over the decades.

    For me, Mardi Gras has always been a joyful celebration of queer sexuality as well as the life-affirming message that we live and love in equal dignity and worth to everyone else in the community.

    This year’s Mardi Gras theme of ‘equality’ makes sense to me. With equal marriage continuing to be a political football and the suicide rates for LGBTQI teenagers still too high, equality remains an elusive goal. While it is wonderful that a wide range of community, corporate and government agencies sponsor floats, we should be careful of the messages that are promoted using our hard-won credibility and acceptance.

    As the sole representative of the Animal Justice Party in NSW Parliament, I am deeply concerned with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) being a sponsor of Mardi Gras, either of the parade, Fair Day or any other Mardi Gras event. MLA is the company behind the popular Australia Day lamb ads which aim to distract the public from thinking about the darker side of the trade. MLA is the representative body of Australia’s live export industry, arguably the cruellest animal exploitation industry permitted to exist today. Our call for equality should not be linked with the needless suffering of millions of animals. The vast majority of Australians would agree, with over 70% of Australians oppose to live export.

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    Before I was elected to NSW Parliament I spent many years at Animal Liberation NSW, running campaigns against live export. Every aspect of this industry shows a cruel disregard for animal well-being. Animals suffer long hours transported in trucks, without food or water, often in the searing heat. They are then jammed by the thousands into live export ships where animals stand in their own excrement, often for weeks on end. The air is foetid with ammonia fumes burning the eyes and the lungs. Not all animals survive the journey and sadly, they are the lucky ones. We have all seen the horror footage of sheep packed into the boots of cars, trussed up on the back of utes or penned in the blazing heat without food or water, waiting for the slaughterman’s knife.

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    LGBTQI equality should not be obtained through partnerships with organisations or industries that operate without a social licence. Horrific animal cruelty and abuse has been exposed in the Australian live export industry for decades, and yet the industry continues to operate with impunity and for the most part without reform. I do not want my beloved Mardi Gras to give credibility to a company that trades in animal cruelty. The MLA’s ‘lamb dance’ Mardi Gras entry makes a mockery of the suffering and death of millions of sheep on transport ships and in the bloody slaughterhouses.

    The MLA is cynically exploiting the feelgood vibe of Mardi Gras to gain community support by associating with the LGBTQI community’s brand. This will serve only to legitimise their cause and delegitimise our own. There should be no place for celebrating animal cruelty in Mardi Gras.

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  • 08/01/2016: Barnaby Joyce under fire from first elected politician in Australia regarding MV Ocean Outback live export debacle

    The vast majority of people in Australia (83%) and now the citizens of an importing country, Israel, have made it very clear that they completely oppose live exports and imports based on the inevitable egregious cruelty and suffering that will occur. Yet Barnaby Joyce, the minister responsible for propping and ramping up this disgusting trade, demonstrates utter contempt for Australian citizens and ignores the ongoing international condemnation of this trade.

    It is time the government listened to the people of Australia who elected them and relegate this brutal, unacceptable trade to the scrap heap of history, and, along with it, export Barnaby Joyce to a place where he can have no say or influence on how animals are treated.

    See my official MEDIA RELEASE

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  • 04/06/2015: Question Without Notice, Live Cattle Export

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. Is the Minister aware that the Northern Star newspaper reported yesterday, 3 June 2015, that a proposal is in place to commence live export of cattle to Indonesia through the Port of Yamba? If so, will the Government legislate to prevent the live export of New South Wales cattle because in doing so it would reflect the extreme concern most citizens of New South Wales have for the welfare of these animals while at sea for 12-plus days and during handling and slaughter in Indonesia, over which Australia has no jurisdiction in animal protection?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I am aware of the article that appeared in the Northern Star. I am also aware that there is an unusual alliance that has expressed a concern about the information in that article: the meat workers’ union and animal activists in the area. The issue of live trade is a matter for the Commonwealth Government. Currently there are no live export port-handling facilities in New South Wales. Any such proposal would need to be approved by the Commonwealth Government. The only live export trade from New South Wales is genetic export such as sheep and goats, which leave New South Wales by plane. New South Wales supports the Commonwealth’s tough standards and protocols for live export and works to see these as an important measure in protecting the reputation of our livestock industries.

    Two weeks ago I met with other agriculture Ministers from across Australia and the issue of live export was raised, particularly by the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and the Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries. We cannot underestimate the impact that the kneejerk reaction from the previous Federal Labor Government had not only on the live export trade but also on the cattle industry across Australia. It devastated some of the largest employers of Indigenous Australians in northern Australia and put some of those communities into a serious economic downturn. The cattle market has rebounded.

    The Federal Government has worked tirelessly to not only open up other potential markets for live export but also to make sure that we are at the forefront of animal welfare standards when it comes to live export. If Australia was to step out of that market it would more than likely be filled by another country that does not have as stringent animal welfare standards. Australia has a commitment to assist abattoirs throughout Asia to treat cattle that come from other countries as well as cattle coming from Australia. I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. There is no such proposal that the New South Wales Government is aware of. It is something that is a matter for the Commonwealth Government.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister please elucidate on his answer as to how the New South Wales Government can legislate to prevent live export through New South Wales to overseas countries?

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: The best barrier is the Port of Yamba. You would not get a boat of that size in there.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I acknowledge the response from the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight. He is right, the biggest limiting factor for the Port of Yamba is its physical construction. As to what the New South Wales Government can do to legislate to enable the Commonwealth Government to do something that they are responsible for, if I knew the answer to that I probably would not be standing here.

    Hansard link – HERE

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