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Meat and livestock – animal welfare: Q and A session

Meat and livestock – animal welfare: Q and A session


LEIGH RADFORD: First question
is this gentleman over here on my left. MALE SPEAKER 1: Yes,
thank you everyone. I have a question
for Mark Schipp. We heard comments earlier
today about the FMD status of India. I would just like to get
Mark’s view on the FMD status in India. And possible USDA listing
of their plants. And his assessment of
risk is [INAUDIBLE] from FMD countries came
into Indonesia. MARK SCHIPP: Thank you. India is an FMD endemic
country. Despite that disease status,
it is exporting significant amounts of beef, either
legally or illegally. And there’s been significant
movement of product from India into other countries including
Indonesia and Malaysia for a number of years. That trade has been there for a
significant period of time. And as yet we’ve not seen
consequences, but I think it’s only a matter of time until
we do see consequences. Because of that it poses a
significant bio security risk to the region, and as a
consequence, to Australia. In that sense it’s of
a serious concern. What we can do about that is
to improve our intelligence and we’ve done quite a lot
of that in the region. Looking at where FMD outbreaks
are, where the trade routes are, where the likely sources
of FMD are in the region. What we can do to improve our
border controls to ensure that it doesn’t enter Australia. FMD can only enter Australia
through animals or through products, and we’ve
significantly tightened up our intelligence and our ability
at the border to manage that risk. I think that the risk
environment has deteriorated, but our tools have improved. LEIGH RADFORD: Yes sir,
right in front. MALE SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE] from
the Commonwealth Bank. The question is for
Ms. Bradshaw. Ms. Bradshaw, you touched on
topics such as a reduction of mortality, reduction of stress,
pain relief by genetic improvement, and so
forth, as means of improving animal welfare. I was wondering from the RSPCA’s
point of view, how does it see itself in promoting
the research and development piece there, and
improving genetics generally? LYNNE BRADSHAW: What we’re
trying to do by putting out the beef cattle guidelines
in which those areas are mentioned, is to flag that
those are areas for improvement. We have a full scientific team
who pulled together all the research from around the world
and looked at what the trends are, et cetera. We’re very, very involved in
making sure that there’s progress on those fronts. And obviously again, we’re
talking about incremental improvement. That’s really what
we stand for. MALE SPEAKER 2: Can I
follow on from that? What’s the extent of
collaboration with industry players because these are
obviously issues of great importance to them as well in
terms of continuing to improve their herd profile
and genetics. LYNNE BRADSHAW: Well, this
document was produced actually in collaboration with producers
and with industry. It is a document that’s
obviously not been thought up in the back room. And it is all about
collaboration and engagement. Whether we have enough of it,
it’s very difficult to say, well there is enough
collaboration. But as far as the RSPCA is
concerned, that’s what we do. That’s what we do for a
living so to speak. We work with everybody to
identify what the issues are and then put forward a plan to
make those improvements. I personally would like to see
faster progress on some of these issues. We can only get that if people
are prepared to own animal welfare, as I said earlier. LEIGH RADFORD: Mark Schipp if
I may, you have probably a unique international perspective
on animal welfare issues that most of the
rest of us don’t. On a worldwide scale of animal
welfare, where would Australia fall in your view? MARK SCHIPP: I believe that
Australia is a leader in terms of animal welfare. But a leader with certain
characteristics in that we take a very pragmatic
approach. We try and find solutions that
will work on the ground, that can be implemented, and
that have meaning. Often, groups will point to the
EU as a leader in terms of animal welfare. But often the solutions or the
standards they put in place are very difficult
to implement in a real world setting. And I think the fact that we
have got that track record, and we’re now getting that
recognition internationally. And being called upon as a
mentor in developing standards that can be used in a practical
sense, rather than just in the theoretical or a
academic sense, points to the leadership that Australia has
shown in this area over a number of years. LEIGH RADFORD: How significant
is that recognition? How real is it in other
parts of the world? MARK SCHIPP: As I said, we
initiated the Regional Animal Welfare Strategy,
and that took a significant amount of effort. There are people here in the
audience that played a large part in that. Having established that Regional
Strategy, that’s now been adopted by the OIE across
a number of regions. When I go and travel
internationally, I often have people come and talk to us about
what’s your experience? What can you give us in terms
of assistance or training? What do you have in terms of
documentation that we can pick up and use? The fact that we took the
OIE standards, which are internationally accepted
standards, and then developed a checklist and built a
regulatory system around those, is admired around the
world and is being picked up by a number of countries off
the back of this case. They’re saying, if that’s what
Australia wants for exported livestock, then we’re going to
look at that in terms of our domestic livestock. And that was the type of flow
on affect and spillover that we were hoping to see. And that’s what we are
starting to see. LEIGH RADFORD: Thank you. Now we have a question
over here. FEMALE SPEAKER 1:
[? Judith Laughin, ?] Agricola Aus. A question for Lynne Bradshaw. Looking at the changes in the
live animal trade in East Asia over about the last 20 or 30
years, one notes that as incomes have risen, there’s
been a gradual change from live animal trade to processed
beef, sheepmeat, and lamb, et cetera. Given that many of the countries
that take live animal in their imports, whether
from Australia or other countries, are very low
income countries with very poor cold chains or no cold
chains, how realistic is it for the RSPCA to be advocating
an end to live exports of cattle and other animals
for slaughter? LYNNE BRADSHAW: This is a
really good question. I think we have to take it from
the perspective that we are an animal welfare
organisation, and we have to put forward our views on
what’s best for the animals in this case. As practises in overseas
countries or shifts in the way things occur, maybe there’s more
of an opportunity to do things differently. But I think that we would be
remiss as an organisation if we didn’t set the benchmark to
say, look, we can do things in a better way. Sorry, I’m getting a little
bit tongue-tied here. The reason that we’re advocating
the way we are is that there’s no guarantee as to
what happens at the other end in the case of
the live export. The ESCAS system is a step in
the right direction, But it’s not foolproof. I think that the argument about
well, people don’t have fridges or whatever. It’s something that’s going
to change over time. Is that the justification for
us say, well, we back off on our live export message? Probably not. LEIGH RADFORD: Question
in the front here. NATHAN WESSLING: Nathan
Wessling from McBride. I want to ask a meat question
from Michael and Malcolm. Do you see any opportunities in
the mutton market given low domestic consumption and
precarious live exports? MICHAEL HARRIS: I’ll start very
briefly and then hand over to Malcolm. Are you talking domestically,
or via trade, or either or? I think Malcolm will have a
better finger on the pulse feel for these kind
of opportunities than I might here. Firstly I think it’s an area
we have to look at because there is some pressure in some
of the other exporting industries. But I don’t know that the
pressure comes necessarily from live animal exports. I think the point about live
animal exports is they’re to particular markets
at the moment. And they are a small slice of
the export action in meat and livestock industries
in Australia. I guess the general starting
point is that mutton isn’t the premium product. Lamb is the premium product
for those animals. So you might be looking at
different markets, or you might be looking at trying to
expand into certain areas. Where you’re looking for in a
sense, almost a cheap bulk commodity kind of export. Lynn’s raised the issue that’s
been used around the live export trade of– in response to the question
about, how good is the supply technology and storage
technology on the other side of the far end of the export
chain, is there refrigeration, is there storage, and all
that sort of stuff. Obviously there is where cheaper
meat products might be salable, and certainly in the
major cities of the countries that we export to they have
supermarkets, they do have electricity, they do have
storage and refrigeration. So those might be areas where we
could look at those kind of markets, but I probably
don’t have a more precise answer than that. With that I’ll pass it over
to Malcolm and see what he’s got to say. MALCOLM JACKMAN: It isn’t going
to be a niche market. I’m aware of markets where for
example, mutton is cubed and then sent to be a filler
for goat meat. It seemed goat is the primary
product, then mutton is used as a filler to expand
it out on. I dare say there’s some
analogies with horse meat and beef burgers, but it’s done with
everybody’s knowledge on the way through. I do think that what we will see
in the emerging markets, and Mark’s made the point and
Lynne’s made the point, in a lot of our developing markets
where meat is seen is the predominance around the weight
markets still exists. So you can be in downtown
Shanghai, one of the great cities of the world now, and
the weight market is still there and alive and well. Within those large numbers of
apartments within Shanghai, you will start to see
refrigeration become part of it. And people will buy chilled meat
products, and be able to cook at home, and all
the rest of it. And you will see a move away
from poultry and fish and pork being the primary source
of protein. And you will see beef and
sheepmeat become part of that. And then those markets will open
up on the way through. But it’s going to
be evolutionary. And it could well be that in the
future, there is no place for live export in Australia. It won’t be in any time in the
near future, but I think this will be the place where what we
would consider a secondary meat cart, will actually be an
acceptable meat cart in other parts in the world. In the same way people eat
buffalo where we wouldn’t eat it as a rule in Australia,
et cetera. On the way through I see all of
those opportunities opening up, but at the moment, the
opportunity for mutton I suppose is more niche
than the mainstream. LEIGH RADFORD: Now a
question up here. SOPHIE MORRIS: Sophie
Morris from the Australian Financial review. A question for Malcolm
Jackman. You said that the implementation
of ESCAS had damaged some key trading
relationships, and that a lot of work needed to be done
on restoring those. Are you talking there about
ministerial visits? Or what sort of work do you
think needs to be done there? And can you identify which
relationships in particular need that work? Also you mentioned some of the
costs of ESCAS bungles, I suppose, a compliance
cost on business. But you said it was
well intended. On balance do you think it has
had benefits from an animal welfare perspective, or
do you think the costs outweigh the benefits? MALCOLM JACKMAN: A number of
questions there Sophie, I’ll try and remember them all. Just firstly on the cost issue,
on the way through the end of the day, we understand
the cost of doing business in Australia, in Australian
regulatory environment, that the government imposes upon us,
and the pluses that come from that in terms of
animal welfare. So whilst it has cost, I think
the benefits from it have been good and acceptable from
our point of view. But it has cost money to
implement on the way through. What it has done, it’s
actually narrowed the competition. So it’s basically the bigger
players are now in that sector because they can afford to put
in place the supply chains, to get the order trials to put the
vets on ships, to put the animal welfare officers on the
ground on a full-time basis. And so the ability of an
individual entrepreneurial exporter to basically book space
on a ship, to gather some cattle, and to
move it into a market, are almost gone. You just can’t do
that anymore. In some respects the cost
benefit has been offset because players such
as [INAUDIBLE] have been able to probably take
a larger market share in a shrinking market on
the way through. I do think that there has been
significant political damage in Indonesia on the way
the ban was imposed. We see similar issues in Japan,
not so much of the political level, probably more
at a commercial level, where the market into Japan has been
there for 20 or 30 years. It’s a very small market
it’s all wagyu beef. These are animals that
are pampered to an extreme degree almost. And Japanese importers are
saying we are getting punished, and we are paying a
financial penalty for rules implemented by Australia that
apply to a completely different market. Do we need to do more
with Indonesia? I think yes, we do need to do
a lot more with Indonesia. Our nearest neighbour. And from an agricultural, soft
commodities, import export point of view, I think
we do very poorly. Its our largest grain market. 22% of our grain, give or take
a splash, goes to Indonesia. And yet, we have a minute amount
of fresh vegetables and produce goes into Indonesia. Indonesia’s a great untapped
market that successive governments seem to ignore. And we need to do a lot
more around it. Regretfully, I suspect we will
need a change of government, potentially in both countries,
to restore a normal balance of commercial relationship. LEIGH RADFORD: Thank
you Malcolm. A question up here. ALISON PENFOLD: Thank you. Alison Penfold, Chief Executive
Officer of the Australian Livestock
Exporters Counsel. My question is to
Lynne Bradshaw. Lynne, we’ve heard today that
there’s been significant changes in the regulations
around the live export trade. Now basically from paddock to
the point of processing. The industry provides
significant employment, particularly in areas where
there are few employment opportunities, and that
includes indigenous employment. The trade is a key plank of
the livestock production economy in this country. From our perspective, it is very
important that we work with RSPCA productively. So my question is, what will
it take RSPCA to reconsider and change its existing
policy on the livestock export industry? Thank you. LYNNE BRADSHAW: Well, to have a
change in policy would take unanimous vote of all the
states and territories. But notwithstanding that at
the moment, although the system’s in place, as far as the
RSPCA is concerned, they don’t meet certain of
our requirements. Some compulsory stunning
is one of those. That’s basically from a welfare
perspective, that’s where we stand. We understand that government
may decide to, or has decided to continue for the foreseeable
future with the export of live animals
for slaughter. Whilst ever that is occurring,
the RSPCA will be there working with everybody involved
to try and get the best outcomes for the animals–
the best welfare outcomes for the animals. It’s not that we’re antagonistic
in terms of we don’t want to work with
you, of course we do. But what we’re saying is there’s
a minimum requirement, as we see it, and unless
anybody can prove substantially different,
there are still flaws in that system. LEIGH RADFORD: One
final question. JESSICA SWANN: A question
to Mark Schipp. Jessica Swann from the ABC. If we look at ESCAS in the MOUs,
in the case specifically of Iran and the Egyptian
markets, these are new markets, they are currently
being held up. So if we can talk about that. My second question is that you
talked about funding, and you mentioned countries such as
Indonesia, Jordan, and Egypt. But if that market to Iran does
open up, does that mean that we’ll see funding going to
that market in light of the sanctions that we currently
have there? And just thirdly, what would
you say is the biggest challenge to dealing with those
Middle Eastern and North African embassies and diplomats
here in Australia? MARK SCHIPP: Thank you. In terms of MOUs we have tried
to ensure that we have a guarantee that animals will
be unloaded on arrival at countries of destination. And to facilitate that, we have
developed MOUs with a number of countries,
particularly in the Middle East. Some have argued that those MOUs
have not been effective, such as the difficulties that
we had with [? Bahrain ?] last year. But we would respond that
those MOUs gave us an opportunity to engage
in dialogue. And in some cases we’ve been
able to avoid the problems that we’ve had in those markets
simply by referring to the MOUs and getting officials
to recognise that we have an arrangement in place whereby
they guarantee the unloading of animals before we have a
discussion on animal health, or other concerns. With that in mind, we would like
to extend the use of MOUs to markets. Particularly those that are
vulnerable or new, and Iran is one of those. So we are keen to see
the development of a MOU with Iran. Iran is equally keen. They have agreed to the draft
MOU that we’ve put to them. We’re now working through the
health protocols and arranging a suitable time to finalise
those protocols and that MOU. In terms of funding, Iran is
not recognised, or is not currently on the list of aid
recipient countries for Australia, so I don’t believe
that it would be eligible. I’m not sure if there’s others
in the audience from [INAUDIBLE] that are able to
correct me, but that’s my understanding. I’m very reluctant to comment
on embassies from the Middle East and North Africa. I think the engagement that
we’ve had has been largely very positive in that we’ve been
able to demonstrate that we are well intentioned in
trying to work to ensure food security, which is a critical
concern in many of these markets that we’re not going
to cut off supply. Indeed we’re trying to work
towards a sustainable supply of animals into those markets. And we have not restrained
ourselves to dealing with embassy officials here, but we
have travelled extensively to the Middle East both
at a government to government level. We’ve taken industry delegations
with us, and we’ve supported industry in setting
up their own delegations. I think that we have done as
much as we can and have gone to great lengths to try and
support their trade. JESSICA SWANN: Can I just add,
if you could wave that magic wand, in terms of
communications, what would it actually be? Because it’s one thing to go
over there, but once we’re here in Australia, if you can
just pick up the fine if you’re here in Canberra, and
you can actually have that communication, what would
make it easier for you? MARK SCHIPP: The great challenge
is ensuring that we have a consistent message, so
that when we go as government, or as industry go, or there are
other parties involved, that we all have the
same message. So that the country is hearing
the same message consistently and not getting different
versions of, this is what ESCAS requires. It requires an independent
audit. Does that mean that the
Australian government is going to go there and send
an auditor to look over your shoulder? No it doesn’t. It means an independent audit,
independent of the Australian government, independent
of the exporter. It’s very difficult to get
that message through. In part because the message
has not been consistent because there’s been multiple
channels, which is a good thing in other aspects. But it’s also that there’s
a reluctance to hear that message. A number of countries have said,
if we wait long enough, you’ll fold. We know that if we hold out long
enough, you’re going to change your message. And we’re being very consistent
to ensure that the message doesn’t change, the
rules don’t change. It doesn’t matter if you’re
Japan or Indonesia, the same rules apply. LEIGH RADFORD: Thank you Mark. We’ll have to leave it there. I have many questions that I’d
like to ask our panellists this afternoon, but we
are out of time. Could you please thank Malcolm
Jackman, Lynne Bradshaw, Mark Schipp, and Michael
Harris for their expertise this afternoon?

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