THE Egyptian government has sought to reassure Australian authorities that cattle in Egypt will only have their ears removed after they have been slaughtered.
The news came as Labor backbenchers, angry with more 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, which would be separate from the Agriculture Department.
Egyptian media had reported that a government committee had recommended cutting off the ears as part of a crackdown on implanted hormone growth promotants, with Australian animal activists enraged by the decision.
However, the Australian Department of Agriculture said the Egyptian government had confirmed that exported cattle with ear implant growth promotants would only have their ears removed after slaughter.
Some Egyptian authorities are concerned about the hormones, which has resulted in a delay in 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. 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 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 the office to be set up.
South Australian MP Tony Zappia said an independent office would be a positive because it would ''take the emotion and politics out of the issue''.
MP Steve Georganas said he would raise the culling 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, as well as the meat workers' union and the Greens, believe that a transition to domestic slaughter for chilled meat exports would provide an economic boost while also creating jobs.