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Last updated: 29 Feb 2012


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Lifting of trade suspension

The minister has issued revised export control orders for feeder cattle to Indonesia. What does this mean?

In partnership with industry and with advice from the Australian Veterinary Association, a new framework has been developed. This framework will require exporters to show that animals will be treated in accordance with international animal welfare standards, right through to the point of slaughter.

As a result, both the Minister and Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have made Orders which together open the way for trade in livestock, including cattle, to Indonesia.

The government understands the impact of the temporary suspension but took this action to ensure the livestock export industry has a sustainable future.

The new requirements currently only apply to Indonesia. The independent review undertaken by Mr Bill Farmer AO will inform future changes to the way Australia manages its global livestock export trade.

So, what's changed?

Under the old framework, exporters were only required to track animals from the property of origin to the port of export and report on the outcome of the voyage.

Under the new framework, before an exporter can be issued an approval to export livestock to Indonesia by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), they will need to have a supply chain assurance system that demonstrates:

  • internationally agreed welfare standards
  • control in the supply chain
  • traceability through the system
  • reporting and accountability and
  • independent auditing.

What are these 'internationally agreed welfare standards'?

Exporters need to show livestock are treated according to internationally-accepted World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards right through to the point of slaughter. To help exporters with their responsibilities, DAFF and industry have developed an 'animal welfare checklist'.

How will exporters be audited?

The supply chains used by exporters will be assessed by independent auditors. These audits will be ongoing and the outcomes of the audit reports will be made public.

What are the tracking points along the supply chain?

Under the new framework an exporter needs to be able to track an animal right through to the point of slaughter in Indonesia. This includes movement through the point of export, during transportation, at the port of destination, into the feedlot and to the point of slaughter. Under the previous framework, an exporter only needed to track an animal to the port of export and report on the voyage outcome.

How will the government know if the welfare standards have been met and what will happen if they are not?

Export permits will only be issued when an exporter can assure the government that it has an appropriate supply chain assurance system.

Failure to comply could result in a range of sanctions including failure to receive approval for future consignments or an exporter losing their license.

Do these new requirements only apply to livestock to Indonesia?

The export orders currently only apply to Indonesia. The independent review by Mr Bill farmer, AO will inform future changes to the way Australia manages its global livestock export trade.

Is stunning compulsory under the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)?

Australia will continue to encourage stunning but it is not a requirement of the OIE.

Is stunning compulsory in Australia?

The slaughter of animals in Australia must be performed in ways that prevent unnecessary injury, suffering and pain and with the least practicable disturbance.

The majority of animals slaughtered in Australia are stunned before slaughter.

There are some religious groups in Australia whose views preclude the use of stunning before animals are slaughtered. In permitting this practice, Australia meets its international obligations to provide for freedom of religious observance under the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The majority of Australian abattoirs that slaughter animals without prior stunning trade domestically and are regulated by state authorities. Information on those abattoirs should be sought from relevant state governments.

How will the livestock export review affect the entire livestock export trade?

The Farmer review will inform future changes to the way Australia manages it global livestock export trade.

Mr Farmer will examine each stage of the supply chain – from the paddock to the point of slaughter – for all markets that receive Australian livestock.

What extra costs will there be as part of the new framework?

Exporters will incur any extra costs of demonstrating supply chain assurances from the port of export to the point of slaughter.

Where do exporters go for more information about the new framework?

Exporters are encouraged to contact DAFF's Live Animal Export Program by phoning 02 6272 4581 or email for more information about the changes.

The Chief Vet's independent assessment of Mark I and Mark IV restraint boxes

What was the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer asked to do?

Following video evidence of animal cruelty in some Indonesian abattoirs, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig directed the department to implement a moratorium on the installation of any new Mark I restraint boxes. This applied to the installation of any new boxes with Commonwealth funds across global markets.

On 30 May 2011 the Minister asked the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer (Chief Vet) to coordinate an independent, scientific assessment of the ongoing appropriateness of the Mark I and Mark IV restraint boxes.

What are Mark I and Mark IV boxes?

Mark I and Mark IV boxes are restraining devices that allow animals to be secured prior to slaughter aimed at improving the traditional slaughter practices in some countries.
What did the report find and how was it conducted?

The Chief Vet conducted the assessment of Mark I and Mark IV restraint boxes against the World Organisation for Animal Health (or OIE) Code. The Code provides internationally accepted guidance on animal welfare.

The assessment found that Mark I restraint boxes do not comply with elements of the OIE requirements. The assessment found that some shortcomings of the Mark I restraint box could be overcome with physical modifications, however others can only be overcome through ensuring personnel are trained and competent. While pre-slaughter stunning of animals in the Mark I box would address some of the concerns, stunning alone is not a complete solution.

The Chief Vet's assessment found that proper use of the Mark IV restraint box is consistent with the requirements of the OIE. On this basis, slaughter of cattle using the Mark IV box was found to be appropriate.

What will the government do in response to the CVO's report?

In response to the Chief Vet's findings, the government will continue its moratorium on the installation of unmodified Mark I boxes.

As noted in the report, it may be possible to modify the boxes to comply with the OIE requirements. This could include modifications to allow for stunning to occur.

The government's new animal welfare assurance framework that currently applies to live cattle shipments to Indonesia will not allow the use of restraint boxes that are inconsistent with the OIE requirements.

Can Mark I boxes be modified and used?

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry understands that industry has modified a number of Mark I boxes to allow for the use of stunning. Under the new animal welfare assurance framework, these boxes will only be used for Australian animals if an independent audit confirms that they, the facilities they are used in and the way in which they are used, meet OIE requirements.

Why did the government originally fund Mark I boxes?

The intention of the Mark I box was to improve the traditional slaughter practices for Australian cattle in as many Indonesian facilities as possible.

These improvements were intended to establish a widespread base from which further gains in animal welfare could occur, with achievement of OIE requirements being the long term goal.

Will the Australian Government help Indonesia fix the problem boxes?

The new animal welfare assurance framework requires exporters to work with their counterparts in Indonesia to ensure that all facilities that process Australian livestock meet OIE requirements.

It is the responsibility of the exporter to ensure the animal welfare requirements are met and provide independent auditing that confirms this is the case.

The Australian Government will continue to work cooperatively with the Indonesian government on live animal issues.

What further animal welfare improvements have been made in Indonesia?

In 2010-11, the government began co funding the installation of the more advanced Mark IV model restraint box in Indonesia. The Chief Veterinary Officer has found that the proper use of the Mark IV box meets OIE requirements.

Live animal export trade to Indonesia

Why did the government suspend the export of live cattle to Indonesia for slaughter?

Following a broadcast on ABC's Four Corners on Monday 30 May 2011, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry reviewed footage supplied by Animals Australia and concluded there was clear evidence of animal welfare abuses in some facilities.

In addition to the evidence of abusive practices, there was evidence of deficient infrastructure and equipment which would predispose the facilities to poor animal welfare outcomes. The government considered the full range of regulatory options available.

On 7 June 2011 the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig,suspended all live exports to Indonesia for slaughter until new safeguards are established for the trade.

Independent review into Australia's live export trade

Who will conduct the review?

The minister announced on 13 June 2011 that Mr Bill Farmer AO will conduct an independent review into Australia's live export trade.

Mr Farmer is a former secretary of three Australian Government departments and was a senior officer with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was Head of Mission in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and was also the Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations. He was Australia's longest serving ambassador in Indonesia, occupying that position from 2005 to 2010.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry will provide administrative and secretariat support to Mr Farmer.

The review is underway and Mr Farmer will provide a final report to the government by 31 August 2011.

What will the review do?

The review will examine each stage of the supply chain – from paddock to the point of slaughter – for all markets that receive Australian livestock. It will help the Australian Government design and apply new safeguards to ensure that live animals exported from Australia for slaughter are treated in an appropriate way.

Where can I find out more about the review?

A live exports review website has been established to provide updates on progress and outline findings of the review.

Effects of the Indonesian cattle trade suspension

Won't cattle farmers who rely on the export trade lose a lot of money?

For the live cattle export industry to be sustainable, it must be able to meet the expectations of the Australian community.

Under the Northern Australia Strategy the government wants to find ways to diversify northern agricultural industries, including the beef industry, to make it more sustainable in the long term.

Is the government providing any assistance to individuals who have been affected by the trade suspension?

The government is extending personalised priority assistance to employees retrenched as a result of the suspension of live exports to Indonesia through Job Services Australia. Further assistance information is available on the website.

About the live export trade

What is the value of the live export industry?

The live export industry is an important part of Australia's livestock industry. In 2009 the live export sector earned $996.5 million and underpinned the employment of around 10 000 people in rural and regional Australia.

Why doesn't Australia just export chilled meat?

Suggestions that the live trade could be completely replaced by chilled and frozen meat fails to take into account the requirements of the market. While Australia has developed a significant trade in meat products, the lack of refrigeration and cold chain facilities, as well as strong cultural preferences for freshly slaughtered meat precludes Australia from servicing all of its export markets with processed meat products.

What is the government going to do to promote better animal welfare outcomes in the countries it exports livestock to?

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is jointly funding a number of projects with the live export industry to improve infrastructure and training to promote better animal handling and slaughter practices. Australia is the only country that requires specific animal welfare outcomes for livestock exports.

In the 2009-10 Budget, the government announced the Live Trade Animal Welfare Partnership, which will invest $3.2 million over three years, including $1.6 million from the government with matching support from Australian producers and livestock exporters to further improve animal welfare in, and support trade with, overseas markets.

The government requires the livestock export industry to comply with the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL). These standards are set by the department in conjunction with the state and territory governments, researchers, animal welfare groups and industry. Exporters must comply with the ASEL to be permitted by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to export livestock. On 27th April 2011 Version 2.3 of the ASEL came into force.

The ASEL covers the sourcing and on-farm preparation of livestock, land transport of livestock for export, management of livestock in registered premises, vessel preparation, loading, on-board management of livestock and the air transport of livestock. It covers cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer and camelids (camels, llama, alpacas and vicunas).

As part of the ASEL, ships must comply with strict rules about ventilation, drainage and the provision of water and food. Each animal must have access to food and water on demand and enough space to lie down. There must also be special pens for sick animals to receive veterinary care.

How are mortalities reported for animals exported overseas?

Under the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997, a report on the carriage of livestock on any sea voyage to a port outside of Australia must be tabled in each House of Parliament every six months.

A reportable mortality event occurs in a consignment if the mortality rate is equal to, or exceeds, the reportable level specified in the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL).

Mortality rates have fallen in recent years. Between 2000 and 2010:

  • the average mortality rate for short haul cattle fell from 0.09 per cent to 0.04 per cent
  • the average mortality rate for long haul cattle fell from 0.42 per cent to 0.28 per cent
  • the average mortality rate for sheep has fallen from 1.34 per cent to 0.91 per cent, and
  • the average mortality rate for goats has fallen from 1.98 per cent to 0.69 per cent.

The government's policy is to bring about further improvements.

The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) regularly reports livestock mortality rates on its website.

The Australia Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) investigates all consignments which record a reportable mortality event.