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Ag Dept releases findings into 2021 cattle mistreatment allegations in Indonesian abattoirs

Beef Central, 11/05/2023

The Federal Department of Agriculture has completed an investigation into a 2021 complaint from animal rights group the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) alleging non-compliance with Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) animal welfare requirements in Indonesia.

The PETA report, dated 22 June 2021, and previously reported here, alleged non-compliance at seven abattoirs, specifically that workers jabbed a steer with metal prods over 60 times and twisted and yanked its  tail after a failed stunning attempt, staff stepped and yanked on cows’ tails, and staff hoisted and cut animals, despite observing that their limbs were moving.

The Department said PETA provided video and photographic evidence of the allegations taken at each of the seven abattoirs.

The Department’s review found evidence of handling that would not comply with one or more ESCAS animal welfare standards at each of the seven abattoirs

The Department said it met with exporter representatives to discuss the development of a joint management plan to address the department’s initial concerns and provide assurance that the abattoirs were able to meet ESCAS animal welfare requirements on an ongoing basis.

In July 2021, the exporters provided the department with an ESCAS Assurance Management Plan. The department said it required that immediate action be taken to ensure on-going compliance with ESCAS requirements including appropriate checks for consciousness and death prior to slaughter, hoisting or dressing of the animals.

The department said that on receiving PETA’s report and identifying handling that did not comply with ESCAS animal welfare standards, it took immediate regulatory action, applying conditions to relevant exporters’ approved supply chains requiring ongoing implementation and verification of the ESCAS Assurance Management Plan along with additional independent auditing of the implicated abattoirs.

The report said the Department found inconsistencies in exporter interpretations of ESCAS animal welfare standards relevant to the incidents, especially regarding procedures by abattoir staff to assess unconsciousness following stunning and verify death following slaughter.

Further, there were deficiencies in the processes in place at some of the abattoirs to ensure consistent compliance with ESCAS animal welfare requirements.

Based on the information received, the department said it was able to determine which exporters had animals slaughtered within each abattoir on the night the video footage was taken.

However, it was not able to determine the exact identities of the cattle in the footage.

Therefore, it said, it was not possible to determine the specific extent of responsibility for non-compliance by each exporter.

“The department recognises that the current guideline for the management of non-compliance does not provide a clearly articulated approach to the attribution of non-compliance in situations where multiple exporters are implicated but definitive correlations cannot be established between a noncompliance and a specific exporter/s responsible for it based on available evidence.

“This issue is being considered and will be addressed through the department’s review of the ESCAS framework, including updating the ESCAS animal welfare standards to ensure clear, consistent and unambiguous interpretation.

“The department determined that the training and corrective actions implemented by the exporters as well as the conditions placed by the department on exporter supply chains in response to these non-compliances were collectively effective in addressing these non-compliances and preventing their recurrence.”

The June 2021 issue was the only non-compliance issue listed in the latest ESCAP regulatory performance report for the period covering 1 January to March 31, 2023, during which time 291,693 buffalo, cattle, goats and sheep were exported from Australia to 12 countries in Asia and the Middle East.

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