Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says he can’t promise that cruelty to exported Australian livestock can ever be prevented.
However, Australian authorities will do whatever it takes to ensure animal welfare standards are complied with throughout the supply chain.
Mr Joyce says Australia will resume exporting live sheep and cattle to Egypt after the government struck a deal with Egyptian importers to ensure animal welfare standards.
Egypt has agreed on “all matters” to resume live trade, including an agreement on the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which holds Australian exporters to account to ensure animal welfare standards are met throughout the supply chain.
Australia’s live-export industry suspended its cattle trade to Egypt in July 2013 following the emergence of shocking footage showing animal cruelty at two Egyptian abattoirs.
Sheep have not been exported to the country since 2006 following similar circumstances.
Mr Joyce on Thursday said it would be foolish to make assurances that animal cruelty could be prevented under the new deal, but the government would manage complaints however it could.
“I believe we have a closed loop … it will be watched over and managed to the best of our ability,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“But we can’t make promises, that will be insincere, and say from this point forward there will never be another drama.”
The Australian Greens, who have tried to legislate to have live exports banned permanently, said the resumption would shock Australians because animals would continue to suffer.
They want to expand the trade of processed meat and will reintroduce a bill in the Senate banning live exports.
“I know tens of thousands of Australians support an end to live exports and I hope that the Australian government acts on these concerns,” Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said.
However, live exporters say it is unfair for the industry to be criticised only when compliance issues arise.
“If the industry wasn’t committed to welfare, then we wouldn’t be investing millions of dollars in training thousands of people in our supply chains in good animal welfare,” Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive Alison Penfold told reporters in Canberra.
The Egypt agreement follows the recent resumption of sheep exports to Bahrain after a two-year hiatus.
Mr Joyce said the government was also working on opening new markets for live trade.
Ms Penfold said the industry was hopeful of striking a deal with Saudi Arabia, but had faced problems getting the country to comply with ESCAS.