Australian farmers have been "duped", according to the RSPCA, which, in the wake of the latest live exports scandal, is calling on the federal government to embrace a meat-only trade.
Footage of animal cruelty practices at Egypt's Ain Sokhna and Ismailia facilities aired on ABC's 7.30 program last night, and has reignited the live exports debate, with both Australian and Egyptian regulators launching an investigation.
Live exports to the region have been suspended and both the Greens and Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie have called for an end to the practice, news.com.au reports.
The RSPCA is also supporting a move away from live exports, towards a meat-only trade.
RSPCA Australia president, Lynne Bradshaw, said "More than 100,000 Australian animals have been slaughtered in these facilities in the past few years, facilities where no stunning is required and animals are forced to face the horrors of having their throats cut in terrifying restraint devices.
"Once again Australian farmers have been duped by the live exporters who convinced them the Ain Sokhna and Ismailia facilities were protecting the welfare of their animals," she said.
Bradshaw added that farmers need certainty that there will be a market for their livestock, but also need confidence that their animals will be treated humanely throughout the slaughter process.
"They need support for a transition away from live exports so that they know their livestock will be treated in accordance with Australian laws from the farm gate to slaughter," she said.
"Live exports will never provide the certainty that producer’s need, every time live export cruelty hits the Australian media, it damages farmers' livelihoods."
KAP leader and federal member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, who's regularly met with the Indonesian Ambassador since the live export ban two years ago, says a move towards meat-only trade is unrealistic.
"The reality is that poor countries cannot afford to buy meat processed in Australia – it is too expensive – but they can afford meat that is grown-out and processed in Indonesia," he said.
While the RSPCA claims farmers are having the wool pulled over their eyes, Katter argues moving away from live exports will threaten their livelihood.
"The Australian people must know the downside of the ban. Our farmers have been destroyed," he said. "There’s no market for cattle with live export destroyed. Half a million head of cattle were lost as result of the ill-advised, without-warning closure of the Indonesian market two years ago and cattlemen were forced to shoot their oversupply of stock."
Katter slammed animal activists, claiming "misguided do-gooders and extremists such as animal welfare groups" are "killing our industry" and causing overseas markets to feel as if they're being "dictated to".
Flaws in the system?
While describing the footage of Australian cattle in Egypt as “sickening”, Federal Agricultural Minister, Joe Ludwig, claims that the recent reforms to the livestock export system are working.
"What’s actually in place is a system that ensures that where there are complaints, we investigate those individual complaints; we look at what happens and then the department of agriculture, the regulator in these circumstances, then holds the exporters to account," he said.
"What happened before was that self-regulation had failed. Self-regulation meant that you didn’t know what animals went into what slaughter yards, or even how you could follow up with an investigation.
" … Now we have a system where the community has confidence that 99 percent of the animals that are sent overseas we can ensure that they have a good animal welfare outcome," Ludwig said.