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The RSPCA has expressed disappointment at Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s last minute intervention on behalf of the live export industry, to block improvements in live cattle exports.

Better protections for animals under new Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) were due to come into effect from November 1, and would have meant that exporters needed to allow more space for cattle so they could lie down and better access food and water.

But after extended lobbying by live exporters, a late change announced yesterday effectively shelves the proposed reductions and allows exporters to continue with current stocking densities.

"Stakeholders have been working hard behind the scenes for two years, with multiple public consultations, to secure these very modest changes – but at the eleventh hour, Minister Littleproud has stepped in to undermine the agreed improvements,” said RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow.

“All we’re talking about is giving cattle a little bit of additional space to allow them to lie down and to better access food and water troughs on these voyages, which can sometimes take weeks and weeks.

“It’s an incredibly modest change, which is why it’s even more disappointing that the Minister has stepped in to block it,” he said.

Dr Goodfellow also said that the arguments against reducing stocking densities simply don’t stack up.

“For the industry or Government to claim that the science is not settled on this issue is disingenuous, because the science is very clear. We know that reducing stocking densities is one simple and tangible step that can improve animal welfare outcomes on these voyages.

"And it’s frankly bewildering to see the live exporters still doggedly focused on mortality rates, and not considering the welfare of animals that are alive – something we know Australians are very concerned about.

“The strong message to the Australian community today is that live export remains stuck in the dark ages. Yet again, they’ve had a chance to move forward and improve animal welfare, and they have failed.

“Australians will be disappointed to see such political intervention and this will be a major blow to trust in the industry and the Government’s commitment to animal welfare,” said Dr Goodfellow.

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