LETTER: Live export is vital for cattle welfare in North Australia


Sir – I am a vet in Darwin, who spent 22 years as a research vet for NT DPI and did research on cow death rates on large stations in the late 80s pre large scale live export.  I believe the live export of cattle to Indonesia is vital for animal welfare both here and in Indonesia.
The Australian public needs to understand that stopping live export will result in the biggest man-made animal welfare disaster in Australia’s history.  If live export is ever phased out without a viable alternative market being available (when they existed, meatworks in north Australia used to pay half the price), producers will be unable to afford supplementation or a second round weaning muster. My research figures indicate that this will lead to an annual 9 per cent extra cow death rate in the roughly 2.5 million cows in the live export zone. That is an additional 225,000 cows and most of their calves dying an unnecessary death each year.
The reason cows will die rather than the live export steers is that feeding a calf makes a mother cow lose body condition and if the weaner is not removed many cows die in the late dry season. Nothing Four Corners has ever shown is comparable to the cruelty of dying in the paddock over a week while been eaten alive by ants, birds and predators. Without live export pastoralists would not be able to pay for husbandry vital for animal welfare.
The worst-case animal welfare scenario is where cattle and cattle stations are worth so little that pastoralists are forced off the land and cattle are left to fend for themselves.  In this situation there would be no-one to pump the bores that water the cattle (and wild creatures), provide essential vaccinations and supplements or implement the many animal husbandry practices such as weaning.  Millions of animals would die of thirst and then starvation as the survivors gather on natural waters.
This must not be allowed to happen in Australia.
Gehan Jayawardhana


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