LIVE animal exporters have written to all federal MPs to reassure them the live exports trade is ethical and economically important, just hours before the screening of a television program on the recent culling of 20,000 Australian sheep in Pakistan.
In what was seen as a pre-emptive offensive ahead of the Four Corners program on Monday night, the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council, the National Farmers' Federation, the Sheepmeat Council and the Cattle Council sent a letter to MPs acknowledging the cull was ''extremely distressing'' but highlighting that the industry has now voluntarily suspended sheep exports to Pakistan.
''Let us assure you, we are as abhorred by the reports and images of the brutal methods used by the local authorities to cull the sheep as you are, and we publicly condemn this cruel behaviour,'' they write.
''In light of tonight's focus on livestock exports, we wish to reiterate that ensuring the continuous improvement in animal welfare for Australian livestock is the key commitment of industry.''
Last month Australian sheep, despite independent tests showing they were healthy, were culled because Pakistani authorities alleged they were sick. They arrived in Pakistan in September after being rejected from Bahrain.
The letter says the government and industry are working closely to improve welfare in live export markets with 99 per cent of markets now covered by strict new welfare rules.
''Australia is the only country, of the more than 100 countries across the world that export livestock, that actively works in overseas markets to help improve animal welfare conditions.
''Major reform is never easy and it takes time to get it right. If Australia was to stop exporting livestock, global animal welfare standards would unquestionably decline.''
It also plays down calls for Australian slaughtered chilled or boxed meat to replace livestock exports, saying there is a demand for fresh meat.
The letter comes after exporter Wellard released a video on Sunday from executive director Stephen Meerwald that shows some of the brutal culling methods used in Karachi.
Mr Meerwald also highlights the fact the industry has banned trade with Pakistan and that he spent six weeks in Pakistan in the courts trying to protect the sheep's welfare.
''What happened in Pakistan was a sad, a terrible event, but it is not reflective of the hundreds of thousands of sheep we have exported under the new Australian export regulations,'' he said.
''This has been an unhappy and difficult chapter, but we need to continue to spread Australia's high animal welfare standards throughout the world so all animals - Australian or otherwise - are treated humanely and with respect.''
Greens animal welfare spokeswoman Senator Lee Rhiannon did not buy the letter, saying the industry was ''like a tired old wolf trying to dress in sheep's clothing, in anticipation of more shocking footage to be aired this evening''.
''The public have no more tolerance for live export scandals and the industry are becoming increasingly shrill and unbelievable in the defence of the trade,'' Senator Rhiannon said.
''The letter shows the industry is furiously trying to spin the live export as a plus for animal welfare, and the public will not buy this.''