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The RSPCA has greeted the plans to open up a new export market for beef cattle to China with significant concern.

The China-focused plans follow the announcement last week by the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, that Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) between governments will no longer be required for new live export markets, removing the need for safeguards to be in place to reduce the risk of animals being rejected.

The RSPCA‘s view is that expansion into new markets should not be considered unless there is a clear understanding of that country’s capacity to meet animal welfare standards. That includes a full and transparent audit of compliance with basic international (OIE) animal welfare standards and the capacity of that country to comply with the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.

Previous industry analyses of animal welfare arrangements in importing countries have been withheld from public scrutiny, resulting in export markets being opened up in multiple countries that fall far short of OIE standards. It was this attitude of secrecy that led to the situation exposed in Four Corners in 2011, where Australian animals were subjected to horrific treatment in Indonesia.

If arrangements in China can meet Australian animal welfare standards, then those commercial parties involved should produce evidence of this before these arrangements go any further.

Rather than invest further in an industry known for its high risk animal welfare issues producers and the government should be investing in the boxed meat trade. Slaughtering animals in Australia to Australian standards is better for our animals and our farmers. 

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

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