In a move to calm an issue that is threatening to turn into a populist political bun fight, Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has issued a statement relating to cattle exports to Egypt, confirming that Australian animals there will only have their ears removed after they have been slaughtered.
The Egyptian authorities had earlier recommended that the ears be cut off as part of a crackdown on implanted hormone growth promotants, a call that had enraged politicians and activists in Australia. However, the Egyptian government has subsequently issued assurances that the ears will in fact remain intact.
Even though agriculture departments around the world recognise that animals treated with hormones do not present a risk to public health when eaten, some Egyptian governmental authorities had become concerned about the ear implants, which resulted in a stoppage in the processing of some Australian cattle.
The hormonal growth promotants (HGP) used in Australia are designed to ensure that no active drug remains after the slow release. The devices are made from inert materials, such as silicone rubber. Depending on the particular HGP implant formulation, the release period ranges from 100 to 400 days. After this period only the inert part of the implant remains.
Meanwhile, the Green Party put forward a plan to phase out live animal exports while strengthening domestic processing and packaging of meat for shipment. The five-point strategy argues that domestic processing not only resolves animal welfare concerns but would boost jobs and regional economies. The party proposed a new packaging centre for northern Australia.
Australian Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said that agriculture minister Joe Ludwig needed to take real action, rather than institute "half-baked" inquiries. This is not a new issue, and calls for the industry to move completely to a domestic chilled and frozen meat have not proved popular with Australia's livestock industry.
According to the Australian Livestock Exports Council, business surrounding the export of both live and packaged meat are complementary, while DAFF cites cultural preferences for live animals, and argues that Australia isn't able to serve its export markets with chilled meats because of a lack of refrigeration.
Source: Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF)