A Labor backbencher has rejected suggestions by Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig that the cruel slaughter of Australian sheep in Pakistan was an isolated incident.
The ABC's Four Corners program last night broadcast graphic footage of the sheep being killed - some had their throats cut before being thrown into a bloody pit.
Some animals were shown in the pit the next day, still breathing.
The 21,000 sheep were sent to the Pakistani port city of Karachi after being rejected by Bahrain because of disease concerns.Â Senator Ludwig last night moved to defend the live animal export regulations he introduced, saying the brutal images were distressing but the situation was "unprecedented".Â But Labor MP Kelvin Thomson has rejected the Minister's assurances and is calling for the exporter's licence to be suspended.Â "The Minister says the regulator has the power to suspend licences - let's see it," Mr Thomson told ABC News.Â "So far, there's been no action taken to penalise exporters over this debacle, and there was no action taken to penalise exporters over a previous case where some 37 breaches of the licence conditions were detected.Â "It's not good enough to call this an isolated incident - we've had cattle in Indonesia, we've had breeder cattle in Turkey, sheep in Egypt, the Cormo Express, (and) now sheep in Bahrain and Pakistan.Â "With apologies to Bob Dylan, how many isolated incidents will it take until we know that this has to stop?"Â Prime Minister Julia Gillard has met her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the Asia Europe Summit in Laos, where it is understood she directly raised the issue of how the sheep were treated.Â Pakistani leader Raja Pervez Ashraf has agreed to Ms Gillard's request for an investigation.
'Unprecedented' Australian exporting company Wellard has described the events that took place in Pakistan as "unprecedented", because the sheep were taken from their control and slaughtered by local officials.Â In a statement, Wellard's managing director Mauro Balzarini warned against using the incident to impose an across-the-board ban on all live sheep exports.Â "We do not accept that because of one incident in one facility in one country, that all sheep exports to all facilities in all countries in the Middle East should be stopped," he said.Â The industry has already imposed its own suspension on live sheep exports to Bahrain and Pakistan while further investigations are carried out.Â Senator Ludwig introduced new rules for animal exporters after a Four Corners program in May last year that revealed animal cruelty suffered by Australian cattle at Indonesian abattoirs.Â Under the new regulations, exporting companies are required to put in place supply chain assurances to make sure animals are treated humanely at the destination country.Â Industry united The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) says the livestock industry is united in its condemnation of how the sheep were treated in Pakistan, but the organisation's president Jock Laurie says the new rules have led to greater animal welfare protections.Â "What we've got to do now is continue down the path of improving the system, and making sure that we're actually delivering better welfare standards right across the world," Mr Laurie told ABC News 24.Â "What we need to do is identify those problems to make that system better." Mr Laurie has urged the community not to rush to judgement until a formal investigation has taken place, but Mr Thomson believes the new regulations are clearly not working.
"The system that we have in place amounts to an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff when what we need is some fencing at the top," he said.
The Farmers Federation has launched a campaign urging the public to show their support for the live export trade, arguing that animal welfare standards in other countries would decline if Australia pulled out of the industry.Â It has also rejected the suggestion that boxed and chilled meat could replace livestock exports.Â North Queensland-based independent MP Bob Katter has hit out at those calling for a ban on live exports, saying the debate has become hijacked by "emotional blackmail".
"It seems like (the ABC) are running a television series sponsored by the hand-wringing, eye-daubing set," Mr Katter said in a statement.
"But we will pay a terrible price for this moral arrogance, a little touch of xenophobia.
"The implication of this moral arrogance is that somehow these other countries are not quite civilised.
"Well, some aspects of our society wouldn't bear the spotlight on them, either."