Timelines of cruelty: how industry inaction led to media exposés

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 16 June 2013

There once was a time when we believed that simply providing evidence of cruelty to the authorities would be enough to put a stop to ongoing animal abuse…

Yet despite the Australian Government and live export industry being provided with mounting evidence of widespread animal cruelty in the live export trade, little, if anything, was ever achieved. Unspeakable abuse continued unabated. But everything changed the day Animals Australia first took evidence to the media — to let the public decide…

INDONESIA: 10 years facilitating cruelty

Government and industry not only sat on evidence of cruelty in Indonesia for many years — they actively facilitated animal suffering. Only when publicly exposed in a Four Corners exposé did government ban the use of brutal ‘Mark 1’ slaughter boxes and enforce stricter standards.

  • 2001
  • 2004 – 2010
  • JUN 2005
  • 2008 – 2009
  • MAR 2010
  • DEC 2010
  • JAN 2011
  • MAR 2011
  • APR-MAY 2011
  • JUN-JUL 2011
  • Government and industry begin installing cruel ‘Mark 1’ slaughter boxes in Indonesia. At least 105 are installed over the next 10 years. More are installed in Libya, Malaysia, Brunei and throughout the Middle East. Respected slaughter expert Temple Grandin will later say this box “violates every humane standard there is all around the world".
  • Multiple government and industry reports document the cruel design of the ‘Mark 1’ slaughter box. The reports describe animals ‘crashing’ their heads onto the concrete slab, in some instances even ‘breaking jaws’. The boxes continue to be installed.
  • A Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) report identifies the need for animal welfare improvements in Indonesia and recommends industry develop a PR plan “in the event of an overseas or Australian media report on slaughter practices in Indonesia."
  • Despite knowledge of critical welfare problems, MLA invests four times more on PR to gain community support than they do on animal welfare. (similar prioritising of funds appears to have occurred in other years)
  • Another industry/government report describes problems with the ‘Mark 1’ box, and also reveals that conscious cattle are suffering an average of four cuts to the throat before death, with one animal enduring 18 cuts. Industry does not make the report public for another 10 months. (see timeline below)
  • RSPCA Australia is briefed on the report by the Department of Agriculture. RSPCA expresss its concern at the “multitude of horrors" described in the report. Government fails to act.
  • MLA publishes a promotional video praising the ‘Mark 1’ slaughter box, describing it as “more efficient, effective, profitable, and most of all, reducing the stress levels to the cattle".
  • Animals Australia sends investigators to 11 abattoirs across 4 Indonesian cities. They document brutal slaughter of Australian cattle and the suffering caused by ‘Mark 1’ boxes. With the government and industry’s poor track record of acting on evidence, Animals Australia provides footage to ABC’s Four Corners, so that the public can be made aware.
  • Four Corners travels to Indonesia and documents the same abuses. These two investigations form the basis for the exposé ‘A Bloody Business’, which sparks public outrage.
  • Days after Four Corners airs, The Australian government temporarily suspends all cattle exports to Indonesia. When exports resume, it is under new regulations. The ‘Mark 1’ box fails to meet these basic standards and is banned from use. However the new regulations still allow animals to suffer fully conscious (unstunned) slaughter.

Industry sits on evidence for 10 months

For 10 months in 2010, the live export industry sat on evidence of cruelty in Indonesia (later described by RSPCA as “a multitude of horrors") and did not make this information public. When finally released, their report thinly concealed cruelty, which sparked Animals Australia’s first investigation in Indonesia.

  • MAR 2010
  • APR 2010
  • MAY 2010
  • JUN-NOV 2010
  • DEC 2010
  • JAN 2011
  • MAR 2011
  • Assessors commissioned by the Australian Government and live export industry visit Indonesia over a 7-day period. They witness cattle in Australian-installed ‘Mark 1’ slaughter boxes, smashing their heads onto concrete slabs. They also see conscious cattle suffering an average of 4 cuts to the throat before death. One animal is seen enduring 18 cuts to the throat before dying.
  • The first draft of the report is lodged with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
  • The final report is lodged with MLA.
  • Nothing happens.
  • RSPCA Australia is called into the Department of Agriculture to receive a briefing on the report. RSPCA follows up, by sending a damning response to the report to the Agriculture Minister.
  • The authors of the report dismiss RSPCA’s concerns. The report is finally publicly released. RSPCA responds publicly, saying the report represents “a multitude of horrors in Indonesia".
  • Alarmed by the cruelty documented in the report, and the inaction by government and industry, Animals Australia investigators travel to Indonesia to document the treatment of Australian cattle. What we discover is worse than anyone expected. Animals Australia’s evidence leads to a massive public outcry, forcing Government regulation of the entire live export industry.

Like Indonesia, the live export industry’s involvement in Egypt was a history of too much cruelty and too little action. Once again, the Australian government and the industry leaders allowed this to continue, until they were publicly held to account.

EGYPT: known horrors continue for 5 years

For five years, the Australian Government and the Australian live export industry knew about Australian cattle being brutally slaughtered in Bassateen abattoir (Cairo), and failed to stop it — until faced with public exposure through a television exposé.

  • OCT 2001
  • 2001 – 2006
  • AUG 2005
  • JAN 2006
  • FEB 2006
  • OCT.06-FEB.07
  • Animals Australia provides industry and government with a veterinarian’s eye-witness account of brutality at Bassateen abattoir. LiveCorp’s CEO admits he already knew about this cruelty.
  • Animals Australia repeatedly highlights cruelty at Bassateen to industry and government. Live exporters fail to take any effective action. Read more »
  • Federal Ag Minister dismisses calls by Animals Australia for independent assessment of conditions at Bassateen abattoir.
  • Animals Australia investigators travel to Egypt and document brutal slaughter of cattle at Bassateen, and cruelty to sheep in Cairo markets.
  • Animals Australia chooses to bypass the Agriculture Minister and provide evidence directly to the Prime Minister and to 60 Minutes. On the same day that 60 Minutes is scheduled to air, the Australian Government suspends all live exports to Egypt.
  • Despite damning evidence of cruelty, the Australian Government reopens live exports to Egypt. Animals Australia again travels to Egypt and again documents terrible cruelty. Following another public exposé on 60 Minutes, no more animals are sent to Egypt for several years. Read more »

Three public exposés and one failed resumption of live exports had revealed a fundamental failure to protect animals exported to Egypt. Yet once again, the Australian government opened the trade, and again it was left to Animals Australia to expose the terrible suffering endured by animals.

EGYPT: 5 more years of inaction

Dating as far back as 2008, the Australian Government and live export industry were aware of welfare risks in at least one of the two Egyptian abattoirs used to kill Australian cattle. Yet it is only five years later, when Animals Australia publicly releases evidence, that they ‘voluntarily’ halt exports to Egypt.

  • 2008
  • 2008 – 2013
  • 2011
  • OCT 2012
  • APR 2013
  • MAY 2013
  • The Australian Government announces they will allow cattle exports to Egypt to resume, but only to a ‘closed loop system’ at Sokhna and later also to Ismailia abattoirs. (The first shipload of cattle is not sent until February 2010, due to lack of commercial interest) Animals Australia writes to the government to warn that the inversion slaughter box at Sokhna will cause suffering.
  • Government and industry continue to praise Sokhna and Ismailia, describing them as ‘state of the art’, ‘first class’…
  • A joint industry report documents animal welfare risks with the slaughter box and method of restraint at Sokhna. It also reveals they were aware of these risks as far back as 2008.
  • Evidence of brutal handling and slaughter at Ismailia and Sokhna is filmed by workers at the facilities. In the same month, Australian Livestock Exporters Council CEO, Alison Penfold visits Sokhna and later describes the facility as “compliant with Australian requirements".
  • Animals Australia becomes aware of the October 2012 footage, and further footage from Sokhna taken in April 2013. Animals Australia investigators travel to Egypt to obtain copies and verify its credibility. Animals Australia provides footage to the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and ABC’s 7.30.
  • 7.30 airs footage of cruelty from Sokhna and Ismailia. Industry expresses shock and ‘voluntarily’ halts exports to Egypt.

It took three investigations and a public outcry for the Australian Government to place tighter regulations on live exports to Egypt. What would it take to compel them to do the same for all live export markets? The answer: three years, five more investigations, and what may have been the largest public backlash in recent political history…

Public pressure forces tighter regulations

For decades, the live export industry was left to regulate itself, but self regulation was failing — and animals were being brutalised. Animals Australia repeatedly appealed to industry and government to introduce tighter regulations. But these appeals were ignored, until overwhelming public pressure forced the Government’s hand.

  • 1980’s
  • 1985
  • 2008
  • MAR 2009
  • NOV 2010
  • MAY-JUL 2011
  • AUG 2011
  • OCT 2011
  • The export of live animals from Australia begins on a commercial scale, with no meaningful regulation and no requirements for the treatment of animals in importing countries. Over the next two decades, industry self-regulation is consistently exposed as failing to protect animals.
  • An Australian Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare concludes that “if a decision were to be made on the future of the [live export] trade purely on animal welfare grounds, there is enough evidence to stop the trade".
  • After Animals Australia secures three damning exposés on 60 Minutes, the Australian government enforces new rules that all cattle sent to Egypt must go through a ‘closed loop system’. (ie. a system in which exported animals can only be sent to and killed in Australian-approved facilities).
  • Animals Australia (whilst maintaining staunch opposition to live export) proposes to industry that they introduce a closed loop system for all live export markets — to achieve greater control of animal welfare and reduce suffering. Industry rejects the proposal (in 2010).
  • Animals Australia meets with Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, and urges him to enforce a closed loop system for all live export markets. Minister Ludwig also dismisses the proposal, instead inviting industry to suggest welfare improvements.
  • Animals Australia and Four Corners publicly expose shocking cruelty to cattle in Indonesia, sparking a huge public backlash. Minister Ludwig introduces ESCAS (Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme) for Indonesia. This scheme is a closed loop system, requiring bare minimum animal welfare standards, but not prohibiting the slaughter of fully conscious animals.
  • Animals Australia uncovers more cruelty to Australian animals in Turkey. The Australian public continues to speak out against live export.
  • Minister Ludwig receives the ‘Farmer Report’, which recommends that ESCAS be applied to all animals exported for slaughter. The Minister announces that ESCAS will be rolled out across all live export markets by January 2013 (but exported breeding animals are not even afforded this level of protection).

If we can learn one thing from this history it is that when caring Australians unite to speak out against live export they can and will create change for animals. We will continue to bring evidence of live export cruelty to the public’s attention. Make your voice heard — take action today to help end to live export.

Download / share timelines