A report from Department’s of Agriculture's three-month investigation into the potential breaches of Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) was released on Friday last week, recommending regulatory action against two live export companies.
The department’s deputy secretary, Phillip Glyde, said there was evidence of non-compliance with the ESCAS animal welfare performance targets in two abattoirs seen in the video footage used in evidence, which was supplied by Animals Australia along with detailed analysis of the video footage from the RSPCA.
Another two abattoirs were ruled out of the investigation along with two exporters implicated in the video footage, with Mr Glyde saying there was no evidence the animals involved were sourced from Australia.
But the department has accepted the report’s recommendations and taken regulatory action against the two exporters – the WA based International Livestock Exports and the Elders-owned North Australian Cattle Company.
The RSPCA and Animals Australia have repeatedly called for an end to the live export trade.
The two groups were pivotal in leading the public backlash that saw the Indonesian market shut down overnight by the Gillard government last June in response to animal cruelty footage raised in the ABC’s Four Corners program broadcast on May 30, which subsequently resulted in the design and implementation of ESCAS standards to improve animal welfare.
The RSPCA argue the investigation of animal cruelty claims raised in February this year highlights the regulatory system was “no magic bullet solution for live exports”.
And the auditing system in place under the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) was, “clearly failing to protect animals”, it says.
The RSPCA is urging the government to stop the use of all Mark 4 slaughter boxes that facilitate the slaughter of fully conscious animals as part of live export supply chains - a recommendation of the report - with as many as 40 boxes currently in use in Indonesia and six in the Middle East.
Animals Australia said the report highlighted breaches which represent, “a systemic loss of control over animal welfare”.
Animals Australia campaign director, Lyn White, said despite the Federal Government insisting the new system was working, the report’s findings revealed the system does not protect the welfare of Australian animals.
Ms White said one of the slaughterhouses in question had only passed an audit a few months prior to the cruelty being documented despite their ‘standard operating procedures’ not even meeting government requirements.
She said breaches were not teething problems but revealed, “a fatally flawed system that is reliant on irregular third party audits that are paid for by the exporter”.
Breaches included workers not checking that animals were dead before cutting them up; that animals were subjected to procedures that caused pain and suffering; that animals were unduly stressed prior to slaughter and adding to their stress were being washed and hosed straight after the throat cut.
"These are the most basic animal welfare standards and it is profoundly disturbing that these abattoirs, approved under the new system, were failing to meet them,” Ms White said.
The Government's investigation identified 37 breaches of new animal welfare standards on eight animals.
ESCAS is now being progressively rolled out to Australia’s other main livestock export markets, not just Indonesia and for sheep in the Middle East.
By COLIN BETTLES, Stock & Land