Coronavirus fuels live export debate over meat security


Live export debate reignites over meat transport issues.

A vet is calling for community support for the controversial live export industry amid dwindling availability to transport frozen meat during the coronavirus epidemic.

Campaign group The Livestock Collective managing director Dr Holly Ludeman says while she acknowledges that the industry needs to restore its ‘social licence’, the trade could be a life-line for Australia’s economy.

“Places like Kuwait and UAE haven’t had the same flights they would usually have,” Dr Ludeman said.

“Often we fly carcasses of lamb to those countries daily from WA and Victoria.

“They haven’t been getting those flights, so live export has been even more important than ever for food security in those places.”

WA’s exports $203m worth of live sheep and $317m in live cattle $317m, a total of 42 per cent of the state’s overall meat and animal exports, according to Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s data released in 2018.

However, Sue Foster of Vets Against Live Export has dismissed the suggestion as “industry spin”, saying boxed meat allows for greater amounts to be transported per square metre.

“If one can get live animals to a country by ship, then one can get boxed meat by ship also,” Ms Foster said.

“Transport within destination countries has never relied on plane flights so the only issue is how “meat” can be transported to those destination countries.

“It is clearly preferable for both environmental and welfare reasons for this to be transported as boxed meat.

“If one is really serious about delivering “protein”, the maximum efficiency is with boxed meat rather than live animals.”

Northern Territory vet Lara Bettink also disagrees that live exports are more important than ever, saying biosecurity concerns will limit the success of the industry during the disaster.

“Disease control is more manageable with inspected meat rather than livestock,” Ms Bettink said.

“Shipping crews will be a major concern for disease transmission for COVID-19.”