Leveraging technology solutions such as Blockchain could help to deliver a better and more transparent livestock export reporting system, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) believes.
AVA President, Dr Paula Parker, said the Association is calling for urgent changes to protect the health and welfare of animals exported to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer.
When veterinarians are on board live export vessels they provide daily and end of voyage reports to the regulator – the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, on the state of animal health and welfare.
“It is imperative that DAWR can act on these reports as quickly as possible,” Dr Parker said.
“Leveraging technology solutions, such as Blockchain technology, is critical to ensuring that the changes that are made to reporting are fit for 2018 and beyond.”
A Blockchain is a distributed, digital data ledger that stores information, known as blocks.
Blocks can store various types of information, for example, in the case of live animal export, it can store animal welfare indicators, treatment records, stocking densities and automated readings from temperature and humidity monitoring devices.
The blocks, collectively known as a ‘Blockchain’, are stored on distributed databases, and linked through encryption technology.
This ensures that records are immutable and verifiable, which means that no single person or entity can manipulate the ledger or database without everyone else knowing.
Furthermore, once a new block is added it can’t be changed, which results in data accuracy and maintenance.
“Research is currently underway on how veterinarians on board live export ships can also utilise app-based animal health and welfare reporting. Combining this with Blockchain technology means the data captured can be accessed in real-time and facilitates the level of transparency Minister Littleproud has called for.
“This real-time reporting makes it easier for the regulator to act quickly on animal health and welfare concerns flagged through this reporting.
“The data also forms part of a big data set that can be used for ongoing scientific research and inform science based continuous improvements.
“We call on the government to take the lead on this as a possible solution to fast-track real- time reporting,” Dr Parker said.
The AVA policy on live export states:
Ideally, Australian food animals should be slaughtered as close to the site of production as practicable to minimise transport and handling stress, and to ensure they are protected by appropriate and enforceable animal welfare and slaughter standards.
Where live export occurs, an Australian-registered shipboard veterinarian must accompany each shipment and this veterinarian must be independent and thus not employed by either the exporting company or the shipping company. Pregnancy testing of animals for export must be performed by an Australian-registered veterinarian.
Effective operational protocols must be in place at all times to safeguard the welfare of exported animals. These protocols must ensure humane animal transport, handling and slaughter practices in accordance with best practice; and include accreditation of abattoirs, training of employees and the implementation of an independent animal welfare auditing process.
Animals should not be subjected to prolonged land transport prior to exportation.
The AVA says it will be inviting all live export stakeholders to gather to discuss how technology can be leveraged to revolutionise animal health and welfare reporting and data collection on live export vessels.