SEVERAL Malaysian abattoirs and feedlots have been suspended from receiving Australian livestock in the wake of investigations which reveal animal cruelty in Asia and the Middle East.
Leakages of Australian livestock outside approved Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System discovered by Animals Australia and live export companies during the Islamic festival of sacrifice, Eid Al-Adha, prompted the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) suspension last week.
The number of sheep found outside supply chains for Eid was 4000, with DAWR investigating five Animals Australia reports alleging ESCAS breaches, alongside three reports made by industry.
“As shown in the past month, not only in Malaysia for Korban (sacrifice) but in the Middle East during Eid al Adha, transparency and accountability are important at all times in our industry and absolutely pivotal when problems in the supply chain are detected,” Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Simon Westaway said.
“Wherever deliberate supply chain breaches occur, the extensive powers regulating our markets should be exercised accordingly.
“Our message to the Malaysian supply chain is very simple. Just as Australian exporters must treat their ESCAS compliance obligations as absolute non-negotiables, our Malaysian partners and customers must do the same.”
While a number of facilities had already been suspended, Mr Westaway said further ESCAS facilities may be implicated.
This week Animals Australia released confronting footage to media and government officials of sheep being slaughtered on cement slabs and conscious sheep and goats having their throats cut which was obtained during their Eid investigation.
In response to the “horrific” three minute clip, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie called on the live export trade to be shut down.
“Surely this alone is all the proof we need that the live export trade is inherently cruel and needs to be shut down,” Mr Wilkie said.
“No other industry would be allowed to consistently breach regulations and still be able to operate.”
He said no company has had their export license suspended or cancelled despite ongoing breaches year after year.
“… The export companies involved in shipping these animals should be prosecuted and have their licenses suspended because there have been clear breaches of ESCAS.”
Animals Australia has called for mandatory notification of livestock producers whose livestock had been involved in breaches of live export regulations.
“Only then can they make informed decisions as to whether they want to continue to supply their animals to the export market,” Animals Australia chief investigator Lyn White said.
“It is abundantly clear that exporters believe that they have nothing to fear in terms of regulatory consequences.
“Perhaps feeling the wrath of the producers who entrusted animals into their care will act as a stronger motivator to comply with regulations.”
A spokesperson for Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said ESCAS was designed to consistently improve welfare outcomes— “not shut down the live export trade”.
The Department of Agriculture insists the system is working with a spokesperson saying ESCAS was designed to consistently improve welfare outcomes—not shut down the live export trade.
“Through ESCAS, every incident reported is investigated and where problems are found exporters are required to address them, or to remove affected facilities from supply chains,” they said.
“Where intentional and serious non-compliance is established, exporters are subject to tough penalties, including suspension of supply chains (preventing further exports to that market), loss of export licence (preventing livestock exports to any market) or criminal prosecution.
“Where incidents of non-compliance do occur, exporters are required to put in place corrective actions and measures to reduce the risk of recurrence. It is then a decision for the individual exporters whether to choose to export under the required conditions.”
The spokesperson insisted the system was working.
“In 2015, the number of sheep found outside supply chains during Eid was around 12,300, or 0.76 per cent of the 1.6 million exported to Eid markets,” they said.
“Reports for Eid in 2016 indicate around 4000 sheep were seen outside of approved supply chains, or 0.30 percent of the 1.3 million exported to Eid markets, a significant reduction compared to 2015.
“The Department’s review of ESCAS found that more than 99 per cent of exported livestock since the systems introduction in 2011 were handled and slaughtered in accordance with standards set by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).”