In just three days time Muslim people around the world will celebrate the annual Islamic religious festival of Eid al Adha or Korban, also known as the ‘festival of sacrifice’.
The festival marks the completion of the Hajj (pilgrimage) rites at Mina and commemorates the trials of Ibrahim who was prepared to sacrifice his only son in reverence to Allah. As Ibrahim was about to kill his son, Allah stopped him and gave him a lamb to sacrifice instead.
During Eid, Muslims all over the world traditionally sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow or camel, in a ritual that traditionally involves slaughtering animals at their homes.
The meat from each sacrificed animal is divided into three parts. A third is given to the poor and needy, a third is given to friends and neighbours and the final third is retained by the family.
For obvious reasons the October 4 to 7 festival represents a high risk period each year for unsatisfactory welfare practices involving Australian livestock, which under Australian welfare laws can only be slaughtered in abattoirs in foreign markets that are accredited by the Australian Government.
Animal rights activists including Animals Australia have made no secret on social media in recent weeks of their plans to find any evidence they can of mistreatment involving Australian animals during this year’s Festival of Sacrifice. The group is currently calling for donations to help it buy cameras to equip supporters in Muslim countries to film animal handling practices.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold told Beef Central this week that Australian exporters have been actively working in markets for many weeks preparing systems to manage the challenges of what is a high pressure, high demand period for livestock.
“The focus of exporters is on minimising the risk of poor welfare practices and outcomes and responding as quickly as possible to any breakdowns in management systems,” she said.
A range of strategies have been implement to tailor systems to meet market needs and risks including:-
- Pre-Eid training and support by exporters and Live Export Program consultants to prepare facilities and staff in the requirements for Australian livestock management systems and welfare requirements
- Implementation of carcase only sales systems in Qatar, the trialling of the system for the first time in Kuwait and Oman and a ticket sales system in the UAE (which operates year round) which prevents the general public from accessing live animals for home slaughter
- Restricted supply chains and livestock sales systems to reduce access to Australian livestock in other markets and ensure Australian livestock are only slaughtered at approved facilities
- In Jordan and Kuwait, where there are higher risks of leakage, sheep have been paint marked to indicate the abattoirs to which they are destined
- Encouraging and supporting charity slaughtering whereby large numbers of Australian sheep are processed at ESCAS facilities and distributed to the poor.
- This removes individual sales and selection pressures; and
- Additional exporter and LEP consultants in market during Eid/Korban to oversee and manage systems in cooperation with customers and facilities and deal with problems as they arise.
Ms Penfold noted that Australia is the only country in the world that puts special measures in place focused on ensuring the welfare of its livestock in foreign markets.
“No other country in the world does anything similar, indeed, anything at all. We believe these measures are even unique to Australia where Eid is also celebrated.
“The fact that we have gone to significant effort to prepare special arrangements has in fact placed a target on our head – not only for activists who do not support the trade regardless of our in market efforts to improve welfare and take responsibility for the livestock we export – but also for our trade competitors who wish to profit from any exit by us from the market.”
Ms Penfold said that despite exporter efforts, no system is foolproof and the greatest risk to the welfare of Australian livestock during Eid/Korban is leakage from approved supply chains.
“We are very cognisant of our responsibility to control access to Australian livestock in approved supply chains and are acutely aware of the community’s concern and interest to ensure the welfare of Australian exported livestock.
“We are focused on our responsibilities but it is important that the Australian public are aware that the demand for Australian livestock is so strong but availability so limited that black marketeers can be expected to seek to profit from Australia’s efforts to limit general public access to livestock.
“This is not a failure of the ESCAS system but a representation of the instances where our standards, expectations and directives have not been respected by others.
“Any instances of leakage or poor welfare practices are in no way condoned, approved or endorsed by exporters and where evidence is found, action will be taken.
ALEC has provided further information about industry preparations for Eid al Adha/Korban in an information brief which can be viewed by clicking here