Live export controversy talk of town
ALL eyes were on the Australian cattle industry last month, after footage emerged of another live export exposé involving the abuse of cows in Vietnam.
Since then, live exports to three abattoirs in Vietnam have been suspended, five years after the then-Labor Government block of exports to Indonesia.
Despite continued public outcry, government and industry both insist the export of Australian cattle provides an important gateway for the security of the Australian economy.
Beef producer Anthony Coates, from Eidsvold Station, said the 2011 ban resulted in his cattle, which are mainly part of the domestic market, being sold below cost.
“If they close that northern market, where live export is centred, it really puts more pressure on the local market and it takes competition out of it.. as they have to ship their cattle south,” Mr Coates said.
“There was just a blockage in the supply chain as it was overcrowed and that cause severe depression.
“We weren’t getting the returns we otherwise would have got.”
In 2012, live animal exports were valued at A$891.7 million with the 540,209 beef cattle exported contributing A$428.8 million.
The trade employs around 13,000 people across rural and regional Australia and contributes $1.8 billion to the economy.
Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith said although mistreatment of Australian animals overseas was of concern, the industry was committed to improving the welfare of the animals.
“It’s something we’re constantly trying to improve all the time in these countries, to raise the welfare standards,” he said.
“It is totally unacceptable for our animals to be treated inhumanely.”
Although Mr Smith said only 8% of Australian cattle, primarily from Northern Queensland, were exported each year, there would be a loss if the market ceased.
“It’s obviously extremely important in the fact that it gives us diversification in our markets,” he said.
“A lot of the time it complements our production sectors, and we’ve got an ability to put cattle into other markets that we wouldn’t have access to in boxed beef.
“In the north, where there are limited options as far as processing on top of drought, they’ve got the ability to compete in the beef business by selling into the live market.”
Although the issue of a ban on live export was more significant for producers up north, the impact has an ability to leak down to the South Burnett.
Pratt Agencies owner Paul Pratt said northern beef producers’ access to an international market was beneficial to local industry.
“The numbers of cattle in Australia in recent years has been too high for our processors, and the live export is an avenue to get rid of some numbers and it’s made a difference to the market and prices,” Mr Pratt said.
“If there was a ban the national herd would grow and they wouldn’t have to pay the sort of money they’re paying now for cattle, which will have an effect on a lot of our local guys.”
Australian animal welfare organisation RSPCA stands firm in its opposition to live export.