The Egyptian government has reassured alarmed authorities that Australian cattle exported to Egypt will have their ears removed after slaughter, not before as initially reported. This is to remove growth-promoting implants.
The news came as Labor backbenchers, angry at reports of cruelty, said a positive outcome from the Pakistan debacle where more than 20,000 sheep were brutally culled would be the establishment of an independent office of animal welfare separate from the Agriculture Department.
Egyptian media had reported a government committee had recommended removing ears as part of a crackdown on hormone growth implants. Australian animal activists were enraged.
However, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on Wednesday afternoon said the Egyptian government had confirmed that exported cattle with ear implants would have ears removed when dead.
Some Egyptian authorities are uncomfortable with the use of hormones, which has delayed some processing of Australian cattle despite assurances from Australian authorities the meat is safe.
It is internationally recognised that eating animals treated with hormones does not present any public health risk, and Australian cattle farmers cannot sell meat or animals for human consumption here or overseas unless they comply with national and international safety standards.
MPs Kelvin Thomson and Melissa Parke have both advocated an animal welfare office, saying the department's primary purpose was to promote agriculture, not welfare.
While continuing his push to end the trade Mr Thomson said getting an office of animal welfare would be ''a big step forward''.
Labor's policy platform calls for the establishment of an independent office of animal welfare and Ms Parke said the ''atmosphere would be ripe'' for such an office.
The South Australian MP Tony Zappia said an independent office would be positive because it would ''take the emotion and politics out of the issue''.
Fellow South Australian Steve Georganas said he would raise the sheep disaster in Pakistan at the final caucus meeting of the year, but played down any talk of an impending caucus revolt on the issue.
He said MPs and the public were sick of the cruelty to Australian animals overseas, saying it was good timing to talk about a transition to domestic slaughter of animals for export. ''It's an opportunity to talk about how we can value-add to our industry,'' Mr Georganas said.
He and many other MPs, the meat workers union and the Greens believe a transition to domestic slaughter for chilled meat exports would provide an economic boost and create jobs.