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From The Australian July 18 2011

A national lobby group of lawyers advocating improved animal welfare standards has called on the Gillard government to establish a statutory authority to safeguard the treatment of livestock.

The Barristers Animal Welfare Panel says the federal department of agriculture is unfit for the job.

In a 25-page Senate submission, obtained by The Australian, BAWP accuses the department of "knowing for years" about poor abattoir practices in Indonesia and Egypt.

BAWP is a national body compromising more than 100 lawyers, including 25 silks.

The federal department and not the industry body, Meat and Livestock Australia, bore responsibility for animal welfare but failed to act even though it knew of inhumane practices in foreign abattoirs, said BAWP chairman Graeme McEwen.

The federal government last month announced a temporary halt to live cattle exports to Indonesia after revelations on the ABC TV's Four Corners of cruelty in local abattoirs.

The ban ordered by Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig was criticised by the opposition and Indonesia, who accused Australia of over-reacting and jeopardising a $300 million industry.

Hard-hit Top End beef producers threatened to cull herds unless the ban was rescinded. It was lifted after a month but with strict rules on export permits.

BAWP remains unconvinced that any meaningful reforms to slaughterhouse practices have been implemented in Indonesia.

"The history of expenditure and efforts to promote or improve welfare standards in all Australian live export market countries appears to have been more directed to appeasing public concerns and drawing a veil over the welfare consequences of the trade," the submission says.

It says it is unaware of "any prosecutions or disciplinary proceedings" taken of any substance by the federal department of agriculture or the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service in relation to breaches of livestock welfare.


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