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RSPCA Australia is disappointed at the announcement today from the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, that Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) will no longer be required for new overseas export markets before Australian livestock can be exported.

While MoUs are not legally binding, the importance of negotiating the terms under which live export can be conducted, and setting out agreed processes should normal arrangements fail, should not be underestimated.

According to the Department of Agriculture website, “A key element of these MoUs is that animals be unloaded on arrival regardless of their health status. The MoUs also allow us to help our trading partners improve post arrival handling and slaughter through cooperative activities based around improving animal welfare”.

Without these arrangements, there will be no measures in place in new markets to reduce the potential for rejected cargoes such as the Ocean Drover by Bahrain in 2012, or the Cormo Express by Saudi Arabia in 2003. In the case of the Cormo Express, 57,000 sheep were left stranded at sea for three months: 6,000 died on board ship. When the Ocean Drover was rejected by Bahrain in September 2012, the 21,000 Australian sheep on board were brutally culled in Pakistan because of concerns over their health status.

The dismissal of MoUs is yet another step backwards for animal welfare by the Coalition government, following its dismantling of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy at the end of 2013 and the closing of the Department’s Animal Welfare Branch, which shuts its doors today. 

Media contact: Elise Meakin, 0419 748 907, emeakin@rspca.org.au

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