RSPCA Australia has welcomed the publication of ABARES’ assessment of the live export trade released today which explodes a number of myths and misconceptions about Australia’s purported reliance on the live export trade.

The report confirms the vast majority (88%) of cattle producers in northern Australia rely on meat exports as their primary source of income. 

An even greater proportion of sheep meat producers (with over 100 sheep) raise and sell their sheep for slaughter in Australia with the meat consumed domestically as well as exported.

The report forecasts the potential for the continuing expansion of chilled and frozen meat exports, offering a viable and humane future for Australia’s cattle and sheep producers.

“This report confirms the high level of risk associated with the live export industry and the increasing potential for this cruel trade to be replaced with exports of chilled or frozen meat,” said Dr Bidda Jones, RSPCA Australia Chief Scientist.

“It also identifies that for many export markets there are no religious, cultural or logistical hurdles to accepting meat exports.

“Furthermore, in countries traditionally reliant on the live export trade, rapid growth in personal incomes, urbanisation and access to refrigeration has also contributed to an increase in demand for chilled and frozen meat,” said Dr Jones.

While preferences for live or meat exports vary from country to country, there are more and more markets where live exports can be readily substituted for chilled or frozen meat exports.

What this report makes clear is that overall the demand for meat exported from Australia has been consistently rising and is set to continue.

For example, imports of sheep meat to the Middle East increased by more than 150% between 1990 and 2013 and overall meat exports from Australia are currently worth 9 times that of live exports.

In China, demand for imported beef and sheep meat has been growing strongly due to rapid population growth, rising incomes, changing diets and increasing urbanisation, with Aussie beef already accounting for 53% of beef imports and sheep meat imports growing rapidly.

“In these circumstances, why would this government even consider exporting processing jobs and opportunities by opening up a trade in live animals for slaughter to China?” asked Dr Jones.

The report highlights the need for government to focus on supporting Aussie farmers who produce high quality animals for the domestic slaughter and processing industry.

Currently 94% of sheep and 93% of beef cattle produced in Australia are slaughtered here.  Overall, Australian livestock producers receive only 7% of their income from the sale of animals to the live export industry.  As the global demand for meat continues to rise policy support is needed to transition this to 100% of beef cattle, sheep and goat production.

 “It’s time for the government to make sure its time and energy is directed at supporting the vast majority of farmers who supply to the domestic slaughter trade rather than pandering to the disproportionate demands of live exporters,” said Dr Jones.

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