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Live meat exports on agenda

Wednesday, 15th May, 2013

Matt Linnegar Matt Linnegar

By Andrew Robertson

Animal welfare benefited from Australia’s involvement in the live meat export trade, according to National Farmers’ Federation CEO, Matt Linnegar.

Speaking in Broken Hill last week, Mr Linnegar said recently released footage of alleged abuse of Australian cattle in Egyptian abattoirs was shocking.

But he warned the incident could be part of a campaign by animal activists to close down Australia’s live meat export trade.

Animals Australia alerted the Agriculture Department to the videos earlier this month which led to the suspension of live meat export to Egypt pending the outcome of an investigation.

“What’s their ultimate aim here? Is it just to improve animal welfare or is it something else?” Mr Linnegar said.

“If it is about improving animal welfare there’s no doubt in my mind that Australia being in the market will be a much better result for animal welfare than us not being in the market.”

He said since 2011, when similar abuse uncovered in Indonesia led to a blanket suspension of live export, stunning rates of cattle sent to that country were running at over 80 per cent.

Over 1700 Indonesians had also been trained on better animal welfare practices and correct handling.

“So the industry is putting its hand up (and) is spending a lot of money to ensure that that trade and those supply chains are as good as they can be in terms of animal welfare,” Mr Linnegar said.

Suggestions that Australia’s live export trade should be shut down and only boxed meat exported to countries such as Indonesia and Egypt would lead to the collapse of the industry.

“That is rubbish, that is absolute rubbish. We can’t ... and even if we could they don’t want it. That’s not what they want.”

“The two markets work well together, the boxed meat trade live trade, they target different sections of the market.”

Mr Linnegar, who was a guest speaker at the annual general meeting of the Pastoralists Association of West Darling, also spoke about pending changes to federal drought assistance for farmers.

More details about the changes were expected to be revealed last night when Treasurer Wayne Swan handed down the budget.

“What we wanted was a fairer system to replace the current interest rate subsidies connected to EC (exceptional circumstances),” Mr Linnegar said.

“But we did want to ensure that the package still had that in-drought component as well as the preparedness.”

After a string of above-average seasons, Mr Linnegar said graziers in the district were worried about the current dry conditions.

“Their concern levels are growing in terms of when the next rain’s coming and how long that will last. So I think drought is in everyone’s minds at the moment.”

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