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The first sea shipment of southern Australian cattle departed for China last weekend with little fanfare, despite the enormous impact the trade may have on Australian jobs and animal welfare.

The 1,200 head shipment by Elders-owned North Australian Cattle Company marks the beginning of a trade the export industry predicts could reach up to a million head a year, and which the RSPCA says presents a serious risk to the domestic market.

“These were animals that, until just weeks ago, were destined for Australian abattoirs in Victoria and South Australia, where they would be slaughtered by Australian workers to Australian standards”, said RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil.

“Now they’re being subjected to the uncertainty of a 12-day sea voyage, followed by slaughter in a foreign country with no animal welfare laws.

“While the RSPCA’s primary concern is for animal welfare, it recognises the damaging impact live exports have on Australia’s domestic meat processing industry,

“Make no mistake, if live exporters have their way, Australian meat processing jobs in Victoria, South Australia and NSW will be decimated and the welfare of thousands of animals will be adversely affected,” said Ms Neil.

“Live exports have already heavily impacted Australian meat processing jobs in Queensland regional centres of Townsville and Rockhampton, now southern abattoirs will be feeling the pinch as well,” she said.

“It defies belief that we would export live animals and Australian jobs overseas, instead of value-adding through our own domestic supply chains,

“China is Australia’s fourth largest beef export market after the US, Japan, and South Korea, and has enormous growth potential,

“Surely this impending boom in demand for Australian beef should be shared by all sectors of the supply chain, and underpinned by Australia’s high standards of animal welfare,” said Ms Neil.

RSPCA Australia is calling on all politicians in affected electorates to stand up for animal welfare and local jobs by proposing a move away from the trade in live animals to a one focused on exporting Australia’s high quality beef.

To find out more about the Australian live export trade’s dark history, visit www.rspca.org.au/live-export .

The RSPCA is Australia’s leading animal welfare organisation and one of Australia’s most trusted charities. The RSPCA works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.

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