Aussies march to end live cattle exports
Several thousand animal welfare supporters across the nation have called on the federal government to end the export of live Australian cattle.
Grassroots rallies in major cities were attended by the young, the old, politicians and people in cow suits on Saturday.
The federal government has suspended the sale of live cattle to Indonesian abattoirs for six months.
The commonwealth introduced the measure after disturbing ABC TV footage showed cattle from the Northern Territory being abused and slaughtered in conditions that would not have been allowed in Australia.
In Perth, cattle farmers and animal rights supporters engaged in a shouting match at a rally over the live export issue.
About a thousand demonstrators gathered in Sydney's Hyde Park carrying banners that read Ban Live Export, End Torture and Barbarianism Begins at Home, before marching to Parliament House.
Protesters in Melbourne waved placards with similar slogans, including ''Profit no excuse for cruelty'', with the 500-strong crowd vocally expressing their disapproval of animal cruelty in offshore abattoirs.
Many demonstrators outside Parliament House in Canberra wore T-shirts saying ''Ban live animal exports'' and ''Ban live exports''.
The Animal Justice Party's president, Steve Garlick, said there would be benefits, economic and social, if the export of live animals ceased.
''We are talking about an industry that if it stopped today, that could easily be transferred to the exporting of chilled meat industries,'' Professor Garlick said in Canberra.
''The boost would be to employment in this country, a boost to a lot of rural communities that rely on abattoirs for employment, and you do away with the animal welfare problems.''
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said he had asked cattle lobby group Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to provide financial help for farmers hit by the suspension.
''I have asked them for $5 million to assist for the feed, watering and for those registered premises,'' Senator Ludwig said in Brisbane on Saturday.
''To date they have provided me with a plan.
''Quite frankly, it is too little and too late.''
Earlier this week, the MLA said the organisation had experts working with the Indonesian cattle importers to improve standards at the 25 best facilities processing Australian cattle.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the commonwealth's handling of the issue was ''all spin and no delivery''.
''It's typical of a government which is monumentally incompetent when it comes to actually administering a programme,'' Abbott said.