Tom Hannan, Federal Secretary
Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union
Since the 1970's the meatworkers union has opposed live exports on the basis of its destruction of Australian jobs, its inhumane treatment of the animals and the decimation of the meat processing industry.
Since that time at least 25 export meatworks have closed in Australia and more are still closing at the present time.
Processing plants in the top end of Australia have been decimated with only two remaining in operation at Townsville and Innisfail in Queensland, with sporadic kills at Katherine in the Northern Territory. The great majority of cattle in the Northern Territory are exported live.
Australia exports 6 million plus sheep each year mostly to the Middle East.
It is estimated by processors that with 6.6 million sheep exported last year this equates to 2,500 full time jobs if processed in Australia. If one such job sustains seven jobs in the wider regional community that means that 17,000 jobs are lost due to this trade.
Processing plants are these days located in regional areas and the loss of jobs in these areas, some where the processing plant is the major or the only employer in the town is catastrophic for both workers and the community.
Instances of this in recent times have been Guyra, Aberdeen, Blayney, Yallah, Lismore and, more recently, Forbes and Mudgee and that is only NSW.
At Altona in Victoria around 800 jobs were lost when that plant closed two years ago and the situation is the same in the other states.
The live export trade is seen to be stressful, cruel and tortuous to animals. Graphic footage of the suffering and torment of the animals has been shown on the media both at sea and worse at their destination.
The Australian meat processing industry is able to slaughter animals to the requirements of some 80 countries around the world and has done so for many years. The slaughter procedures in Australia are carried out, by regulation, in the most humane way possible.
Australian meat workers, including halal slaugherers, are fully trained to carry out their tasks and to ensure humane handling of animals from the arrival at the works right through the procedure.
All meat processors exporting to the Middle East employ halal accredited slaughterers who operate to the Islamic religious and slaughter requirements.
The meatworkers union once again calls on the Federal Government to call an immediate halt to the export of Australian jobs and this obnoxious trade in animal misery.
Overview of the Meat Processing Sector in WA
In financial year 1999-2000, the meat processing industry in Western Australia had a turnover of $521 million, employed 2,742 people with a wages and salaries bill of $89 million, and was estimated to have contributed $131 million in "value added" to the Western Australian economy (Australian Food Statistics 2003, p. 51). However, the previous decade or so has been a difficult period for the meat processing sector involving significant rationalisation. Firm and plant numbers, employment and annual slaughtering capacity, stock numbers processed, and capacity utilisation have all declined dramatically over the past ten years.
Abattoir numbers were relatively stable in the 80's, and 57 abattoirs existed in WA in 1990. Since then, many domestic (local/code abattoirs) have closed, and there are now only 29 commercial abattoirs, which is a long way short of previous numbers in the sector. In the same period, the number of export plants has increased from 9 to 13, including those processing exotic species.
Of the 29 commercial plants, 23 (79%) are involved in the processing of cattle and/or sheep. Ten supply the export market, and most of these also supply beef and sheep products to the domestic market. The balance (13) supply only for domestic consumption. Details below of WA abattoirs (as at November 2002) were provided by the WA Meat Industry Authority (MIA):
WA Abattoirs (as at November 2002).
EG Green and Sons, Harvey
International Exporters Gingin (in receivership July 2010)
Dardanup Butchering Co. , Dardanup
cattle, sheep, pigs, deer, goats
Note: Since this survey was done, two (2) more abattoirs have ceased operating; namely Gin Gin and Manjimup, which brings the abattoir numbers down to 27 – not 29.