MLA defends warning Indonesian abattoirs to behave for cameras

The Australian Greens have blasted the peak livestock body for warning Indonesian abattoirs about environmentalists filming the premises.

The Greens’ Agriculture spokesperson, Rachel Siewert claims Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has an “incremental” approach to animal welfare in Indonesia.

Yesterday MLA representatives appeared before the Senate Inquiry into live exports to answer questions from Siewert about the welfare of the animals before the ABC’s Four Corners program famously revealed the shocking conditions in the abattoirs.

The investigation into the torture of cattle prior to slaughter shown on the program led to a suspension on live exports to Indonesia nine weeks ago, and trade levels have still not recovered.

Siewert said in a statement today the MLA was more concerned with warning the abattoirs about cameras than ensuring the humane treatment of animals.

“Tonight, MLA admitted warning abattoirs that the Four Corners would be filming in Indonesia – it seems that they spend more time taking that sort of approach than improving standards,” Siewert said today.

“MLA spoke extensively about an ‘incremental approach’ to improving welfare measures, but the graphic evidence we have seen clearly demonstrates that such an approach was ineffective and underwhelming.

“In contrast to this, abattoirs in Indonesia appear to be making relatively rapid improvements to their operations as a result of the temporary suspension of live exports.

“Surely this is a sign that stronger action taken at an earlier stage could have mitigated some of this appalling treatment,” Senator Siewert concluded.

But MLA representatives have defended their actions, saying it has to ensure the $300 million live export industry remains active.

"We’ve constantly reminded abattoir owners about the need for vigilance and focus on animal welfare," Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) managing director Scott Hansen old a Senate committee in Canberra.

The claims that the MLA contacted at least one abattoir owner and warned him to do “everything right” in front of the cameras or he would risk being put out of business were heard by the committee last week.

"If we’ve been aware that there have been activist groups whose intention is to shut down the trade are in the marketplace to take footage, we do also pass that information on," Hansen said.

Hansen said he is unsure if and when trade will return to normal, but did predict a decrease in production volumes by about 40 per cent compared to last year.

He has defended the MLA’s "step by step" approach to improving .

Siewert said the MLA has its priorities wrong and questioned why the suspension of live exports had to happen before the industry would deal with animal welfare issues.

"Surely this is a sign that stronger action taken at an earlier stage could have mitigated some of this appalling treatment," she said.

Image: The Courier Mail

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