THE Department of Agriculture says its investigation into allegations that export workers had been offered money by animal rights groups to obtain and leak footage of animal cruelty on export vessels has found no evidence to support the claims.
In January 2019, the department commenced an investigation into allegations reported in the media that live export workers had been offered money to obtain and leak footage of animal cruelty on export vessels.
The investigation also inquired into allegations that ‘whistleblowers’ had offered to cut off ventilation and switch off exhaust fans to distress sheep on voyages in order to receive payments.
The department sought information from a wide range of sources in relation to these allegations, some of whom cooperated and others who chose not to.
The department has concluded its investigation into this matter and has not found any evidence to suggest that breaches of Commonwealth laws have been committed in relation to alleged payments.
The investigation did not uncover any evidence to suggest that video footage obtained in 2017 by the crew member of the Awassi Express was contrived, or that ventilation or fans had been turned off to distress the livestock.
The investigation was conducted by experienced criminal investigators within the department’s Compliance Division.
These investigators are independent of the Live Animal Export Regulator and conduct investigations into criminal matters across the department’s portfolio legislation, and the Criminal Code Act 1995 as it applies to the department’s operations.
Department investigators consulted the Australian Federal Police during the investigation.
The department is aware that the AFP also received a referral of similar allegations but did not identify grounds to proceed to investigation.
Statement from Animals Australia
Animals Australia provided the following statement in response to the conclusion of the Department’s investigation:
“We hope this will bring an end to the public victimisation of the whistle-blower who gathered and volunteered evidence, and all those like him.
“Animals Australia requested this investigation and cooperated fully with it. Our only disappointment is that those responsible for providing false information to journalists have not, as yet, been identified.
“This investigation has proven that our conduct has been professional, ethical and appropriate at all times.
“We will continue to play an active role supporting the regulator of the live trade through independent reporting – a role acknowledged by the Moss review as providing improved oversight and compliance across the live animal export trade.
“The veracity of the evidence was never in question. No incentive was paid to film or provide the vision – vision both accepted by the Department and independently verified.
“If it wasn’t for the actions of this brave whistle-blower and the resulting investigation into the Awassi Express, live export ships to the Middle East would not have been ceased over summer months and countless animals would have continued to suffer.”
Source: Department of Agriculture, Animals Australia
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