EXCLUSIVE: There is shock among animal charities as UK-Australia trade deal looms with Australian leader revealing standards ‘lower’ than UK
Image: DAILY MIRROR)
Animal charities have joined forces to issue a stern warning over Australia’s low welfare standards days before Britain agreed to a trade deal.
The RSPCA and sister charity – RSPCA Australia – say UK consumers could buy products in practices too cruel to apply here.
Australian charity chief executive Richard Mussell said standards there “are lower” than in the UK and were “basic at best”.
He said: “We still do not have Australia-wide laws that prohibit the use of sow stalls in pig production, sterile battery cages for egg production or that require a pain relief for dehorning calves and mulching lambs.
“Standards are rarely audited and, unless they are transposed into law, which is rarely the case, they are only voluntary.
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“Australia’s lack of national animal welfare leadership needs to be addressed urgently if the lives of farm animals are to be improved. “
Australian farming involves a number of practices which are prohibited in the UK.
These include mulesing, where the skin around the lamb’s bottom and the base of its tail is cut without pain relief.
It is used to reduce fly attacks in the production of merino wool.
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But lambs end up with large, open wounds that can take weeks to heal.
Although banned in the UK in 2012, the use of sterile battery cages for laying hens is legal.
In Australia, hens have space equivalent to one sheet of A4 paper per bird and 100,000 birds can be stacked in cages on top of each other, according to the RSPCA.
Experts have explained how a lack of space causes stress, an inability to adopt natural behaviors and health problems.
Chlorinated chicken, which involves washing carcasses with chlorine to kill bacteria and disease, is banned in the UK.
Australia also allows branding of livestock, a painful procedure not found in the UK; the use of hormones – in 40% of cattle production; and also feedlots without pasture, which limits the space and ability of animals to express their natural behavior.
Sow stalls measuring 2m long and 60cm wide – banned in the UK in 1999 – which severely restrict the ability of pigs to move so that they cannot even turn over, are also used.
There is also no mandatory CCTV surveillance in slaughterhouses, which is mandatory in England.
Beef City Feedlot in Purrawunda, Queensland, a vast, dark expanse of dust and mud, home to 26,500 cattle that rarely see a blade of grass, is one of the largest cattle farms in the West Indies.
And if the British government signs a trade deal with Australia, meat from here could soon be on our plates.
The 80 slaughterhouses approved for export to Australia were only rated two out of four for welfare by RSPCA Australia.
Chris Sherwood, Managing Director of RSPCA, said: “When many of us think of Australia, we imagine farmers raising animals in vast and idyllic landscapes, but the reality is very different.
“What we do when we sign an agreement with Australia will symbolize to the rest of the world how we want to be seen.
“We urge the government to maintain our global reputation as a leader in animal welfare and not to give up our high standards for a photo op. “