October 30, 2003
Australia's $60 Million Live Animal Trade to Israel Face Obstructions
Australia's $60 million yearly live animal trade to Israel may face difficulties, with the Israeli Government given two months to show why Australian stock should not be prohibited.
The Israeli Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Agriculture Minister to give his reasons within 60 days, in response to animal cruelty proceedings mounted by an Israeli animal rights group in February.
The move comes less than a week after Australia's Government resolved the Cormo Express saga, in which more than 50,000 sheep were stranded at sea for 10 weeks.
Saudi Arabia had rejected the animals, claiming 6% had scabby mouth.
The Government approached more than 30 countries before securing a deal with Eritrea.
Yesterday the group Anonymous for Animal Rights in Israel said the court ruling was a further blow to the Australian industry, as this will inevitably cause them to further lose their credibility.
But Conservation Minister Ian MacDonald, representing Agriculture Minister Warren Truss, rejected the suggestion, saying the court was far from making its final judgement.
"There have been 314 cattle, sheep and goat voyages this year, and there has only been a problem with one of them," Senator MacDonald said.
"I hasten to add that the problem had nothing to do with the Australian Government, nothing to do with the Australian authorities and nothing to do with the way the ship was loaded or transported. It was a problem in Saudi Arabia."
A coalition of international animal rights groups showed the Israeli court photographs of what it said was animal cruelty.
Animals Australia executive director Glenys Oogjes said video footage of the slaughter of sheep in some Jerusalem abattoirs showed the process sometimes took up to six minutes, with animals' throats cut while suspended upside-down.
The livestock industry's main body, LiveCorp, has not been officially told of the proceedings, but chief executive Kevin Shiell said any ban would be detrimental.
"Certainly, any limitation on the trade is of concern," he said.
Last year Australia sold 255,000 sheep, worth $40 million, to Israel. Cattle exports there in the same period totalled 34,000, which equates to 3.4% of Australia's cattle trade, worth about $17 million. Mr Shiell said he believed animals on Australian ships were treated humanely.
But a LiveCorp vet has contacted Jordanian and Israeli authorities about concerns over the transportation of livestock across the border.
"We have taken the issues up with both the Jordanian and Israeli governments, and they've certainly heard those," he said. "Now this is an internal issue that they will have to respond to."
A review into Australia's live export trade is in progress.