RSPCA statement on live animal export standards review

The RSPCA has high expectations of the new Technical Advisory Committee and its members, which have been appointed to review the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL).

“The review of the ASEL has been a long time coming and, after no advancements in on-board standards for more than a decade, we enter into this process with strong expectations of rapid and significant animal welfare improvements,” said RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil.

“The live export industry has fought hard in recent years to prevent improvements to onboard standards due to perceived impacts on profits,

“However, the RSPCA expects the new standards will overcome the protests of the live export industry, and make the desperately–needed improvements to conditions for animals, based on science and community expectations,” she said.

Ms Neil also said the RSPCA expects rapid improvements from the new standards in areas such as

  • the provision of extra space and bedding. Current stocking densities force animals to lie down on top of each other and jostle for access for feed and water,
  • prevention of the transportation of animals to the Middle East mid-year, during which temperatures are consistently above 40 degrees, and
  • the requirement of competent and independent vets to be on-board to oversee the health and welfare of animals

“In addition, the current measure of welfare outcomes through mortality is crude and insufficient, and cannot be seen as an accurate measure of the animals’ suffering,” she said.

In February 2013, photographs revealed the cramped and unacceptable conditions allowed under the current standards and endured by cattle and sheep on-board livestock vessels.

“Australia’s international animal welfare reputation continues to suffer with disaster after disaster in live animal exports,” said Ms Neil.

“While valuing the opportunity to contribute to improving standards, the RSPCA will continue to advocate to government for the replacement of the live export trade with a meat only trade,

“This is better for animals and for farmers,” she said.    

ASEL covers the selection of animals for export on farm and on board the ship to the point of disembarkation in the importing country.

In 2011, the government-commissioned independent review of Australia’s livestock export trade (the Farmer Review) found that ‘a full review of the ASEL was a priority’.