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Australia, Israel and “Meatless Meat”

Credit: Memphis Meats
Credit: Memphis Meats

By MarEx 2018-07-31 02:24:38

Australia's Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has traveled to Israel to lobby the government there to continue to take live animals from Australia. He has been accused of lobbying for an outdated industry.

The Israeli Parliament will soon consider a bill that would phase out the importation of live animals from Australia and Europe for slaughter, over the next three years. The explanatory note to the bill says:

“The animals are imported from Australia and Europe in long sea journeys that could last for weeks. During the journeys the animals are kept in high stocking density, covered in faeces, and suffer from heat stress, from rough seas and from other severe damages.

“Many of them get sick and many do not survive the journey.

“Scientists and professional committees in Israel and worldwide all share the position that transport of live animals should be avoided when possible, the length of the voyages should be as short as possible and live transport should be substituted with meat trade.”

The bill comes after whistleblower footage of dying sheep on the livestock carrier the Awassi Express was released earlier this year, and action by Israel could impact the commercial viability of Australian exports to Jordan, as shipments from Australia often involve delivery of livestock to both countries.

Although thousands of animals die on Australian shipments each year, Australia is the only country in the world that has standards which monitor animal welfare right through the live export supply chain. The Australian Standard for the Export of Livestock enforces animal welfare from farm to vessel. The Export Supply Chain Assurance System enforces standards from offloading to slaughter, including through feedlot and abattoir facilities overseas which receive Australian livestock. 

"The live trade can be done by the right people, the right way," Littleproud said. "With the McCarthy Review changes I've implemented, Israel can be assured we're serious about animal welfare. Those changes include reduced stocking densities and independent observers on every boat supplying the truth of what happens on those voyages, and proof of it.”

However, such footage, although taken on at least one voyage, has yet to be released publicly, and the McCarthy Review has come under fire by animal welfare organizations. The McCarthy Report and the government's acceptance of the results is in direct conflict with the advice of the Australian Veterinary Association, says RSPCA Chief Scientist and Strategy Officer, Dr. Bidda Jones. "These recommendations completely ignore the science and are not enough to reduce the risk of either consistent harm to animals or the catastrophic conditions we've seen previously," she said. 

Animals Australia notes that the extra space allowance equates to less than two A4 pieces of paper per sheep and says it will not prevent sheep from suffering severe heat stress.

Animals Australia and RSPCA Australia had jointly committed A$1 million towards a structural adjustment package for sheep producers if the government was to pursue a phase out of the live sheep trade. A succession of economic reports have all concluded that a well-managed phase-out will ensure minimal impact on farmers. We are prepared to financially support a solution that will benefit both animals and producers, says Animals Australia.

Writing in Business News Australia, Camilla Jansen says that instead of lobbying for outdated, archaic, and backward industries, Littleproud should start thinking big and visit the headquarters of SuperMeat in Tel Aviv. The company creates meat by growing cells that have been painlessly extracted from a chicken. “This process puts an end to the industrial need to mass produce animals for slaughter, while eliminating exposure to animal waste and food-borne illnesses. The potential benefits for public health and animal welfare are therefore considerable.”

She also cites Memphis Meats - a “meatless meat” start-up that has produced beef, chicken and duck without slaughtering animals. The company claims Bill Gates and Richard Branson among its investors. The product has been described as no different in taste and texture to meat. However, it uses 10 times less water and land than current animal production methods.