Minister suspends live exports to Egypt

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran has halted the export of Australian livestock to Egypt, amid allegations of animal mistreatment.

Channel 9's 60 Minutes program has aired footage of cattle in an Egyptian abattoir, having their tendons slashed before slaughter.

The 60 Minutes reporter believes the cattle are Australian, but Livecorp says that is unlikely.

Mr McGauran is not taking any chances. He says no Australian livestock will be sent to Egypt until the matter is resolved.

He has asked his Egyptian counterpart to provide a comprehensive response to the allegations, and an Australian veterinarian based in the Middle East has been sent to Egypt to investigate the matter.

He says it is a precautionary move and he is confident the trade will resume.

"It's highly unlikely that these are Australian cattle but we do need that confirmed, the Egyptian authorities are on the case, I've dispatched an Australian vet to Cairo and as soon as we can assure ourselves that Australian cattle are not subject to these shocking cruelties, then the trade will continue uninterrupted," he said.

Angus Adnum from the Queensland Livestock Exporters Association says, while the Egyptian market is not significant, the practices shown are unacceptable.

"Egypt has been a very small part of the Australian trade. I'd be surprised if there's been any more than 10,000 go there, 12,000 in the last 12 months," he said.

"It really hasn't been figuring as a big market on our radar, and I don't expect it to next year. Their currency is pretty weak.

"That should not stop us from doing something to assist them in their practices."

He says none of the cattle shown were from Australia.

"There has been in the past, quite a number of Northern Territory cattle go over there and I haven't seen a lot of bullocks from the Northern Territory that you can lead with a bit of string like they were," he said.

"That doesn't excuse what we saw on television, that was unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable to producers or whoever may have seen it."

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Dear Friends,

Many of you will have seen the terrible footage aired on '60 Minutes' last night which resulted from an investigation conducted in Egypt in January by Animals Australia's Communication Director Lyn White.

Over 1 million Australian cattle have been exported into Egypt over the past 10 years. The vast majority will have been slaughtered at Bassatin abattoir. Animals Australia has consistently provided information to the Federal government and live export industry about the barbaric practices that animals endure there.
When in 2001 Animals Australia alerted the industry and government to an eye-witness account of cattle have their leg tendons cut and eyes stabbed to disable and disorientate them prior to slaughter, the live export industry admitted to knowing that this occurred. This admission was profoundly disturbing as over 800,000 Australia cattle had been exported into Egypt between 1995 and 2001.

As a result of public exposure - the industry reacted by installing a mechanical restraint device and publicly lauded this as successful despite Animals Australia providing independent reports that the device was not being used. (NB Even if this device, a 'Weinberg' restraint box was used, it is considered inhumane by leading slaughter experts as it drops the animal onto its side and the animal is still slaughtered whilst fully conscious.)

Animals Australia raised further concerns with Minister McGauran last year.
The following is an extract from Minister McGauran╣s response of 9th August 2005:



îThe Australian Government and the Australian livestock exporting industry have provided funding and technical assistance in recent years to upgrade facilities and procedures at Bassatin to achieve better welfare outcomes for all livestock processed there, not just livestock form Australia. The fact that the volume of the live export trade with Egypt has greatly reduced in the past two years does no detract from the fact that Bassatin is a good example where Australia╣s involvement in the live trade has allowed us to influence change and improve animal welfare conditions in the Middle East.╣

As a result Animals Australia assisted by Egyptian colleagues undertook an investigation to document current practices at this abattoir. The footage aired on 60 Minutes last night, whilst harrowing, saved you from the worst. A report from this investigation can be read on our website.

Minister McGauran has suspended the trade to Egypt pending the outcomes of an investigation. However, he must be called upon to completely ban the trade to Egypt.

In media interviews today - the Minister and industry are trying to suggest that the origin of the cattle is an issue if they cannot be proven to be Australian. This is an attempt to deflect attention from the indisputable fact that Australian animals are slaughtered at this facility. To suggest that slaughtermen would treat Australian animals any differently when such cruel practices are endemic and completely accepted is ludicrous. Independent butchers operate in Bassatin. Management have no control over their practices. 60 Minutes also interviewed an Egyptian abattoir vet who confirmed that the restraint device at Bassatin is not used. Australian industry officials have stated that on their visits to the abattoir they have witnessed its use. However, these official visits were arranged well in advance and Egypt wants our animals....

Also an equally important point to make is that to continue to supply animals to this terrible abattoir - even if Australian animals were to be separately and treated differently - would still be completely unacceptable as we would be financially underpinning the operation of this barbaric facility. Australians care about all animals, not just their own.

ACTION: Even if you have already written, please write again to the Prime Minister and Minister McGauran - and please make these points. We cannot again export animals to Egypt whilst any animal is enduring these practices. Further, if the government cannot assure the Australian community that Australian animals are not suffering terrible acts of cruelty in other importing countries they should ban the entire trade to the Middle East.

Contact details for the Prime Minister John Howard and Minister for Agriculture, Minister Peter McGauran are provided below:

Prime Minister John Howard
C/- Parliament House Canberra ACT 260
Ph: (02) 6277 7700 Fax: (02) 6273 4100

Email thru: http://www.pm.gov.au/email.cfm  

The Hon Peter McGauran MP
C/- Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600
Ph: (02) 6277 7520 Fax: (02) 62734120
Email: Peter.McGauran.MP@aph.gov.au 


Thank you for your support - together we can make a difference.

For the animals,

Glenys

Glenys Oogjes
Executive Director
Animals Australia