The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is investigating new claims of animal cruelty allegedly involving Australian cattle in Indonesia, in what is understood to be the first such complaint lodged by animal rights group the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Details of the nature of the complaint at this point remain scant, but it reportedly involves some hundreds of hours of footage secured in seven Indonesian abattoirs by two men of Asian origin who allegedly gained access to plants by misrepresenting their identities as representatives of the Indonesian meat trade.
While it is understood that the vast majority of footage documents what would be considered minor breaches of Australia’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) standards, one video is said to show a steer receiving distressing treatment by a poorly trained abattoir after a failed stun.
The complaint comes after a run of several quiet months on the Department’s formal ESCAS complaints website, and is the first ESCAS-non-compliance notification to be published on the Department’s register so far this year.
It also comes within a month of the industry marking 10 years since the June 2011 live export ban and as Indonesia is struggling amid a severe COVID outbreak now described as the worst in Asia.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment confirmed to Beef Central this week that it received a third party report of alleged non-compliance from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – Asia on June 25, which was followed by an updated report on 30 June.
A spokesperson for the Department said the report alleged non-compliance with ESCAS animal welfare standards relating to handling and slaughter of cattle, but added that the Department does not provide details on the status of an ongoing investigation and will publish the outcomes once it has been completed.
The spokesperson said the information received is being assessed and the department is working with exporters to investigate the alleged non-compliance.
The Australian Livestock Exporter’s Council told Beef Central in a statement today that it has been advised of the complaint by the Department and said the industry had responded immediately.
“It is important that when these isolated instances occur, direct and corrective action is taken. Exporters and importers immediately engaged the facilities as to why the handling of the cattle was not up to ESCAS standards and subsequent non-compliance occurred,” ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton (left) said.
“Exporters who have supplied cattle to those abattoirs are working closely with importers to jointly address the individual non-compliances with specific solutions.”
“The livestock export industry takes any non-compliance very seriously. ESCAS management plans have been submitted to DAWE, outlining corrective actions, and we will continue to assist DAWE with their investigation.”
“Any suspected animal welfare breaches should be immediately reported to ensure quick action can be undertaken. Any evidence that is withheld is in fact creating animal welfare
incidents. The industry is genuinely committed to transparency, upholding and achieving continual improvement in animal welfare.”
“The current situation with COVID in Indonesia has only increased the importance of food security for the Indonesian people. It is vital we uphold supply of cattle for export to our valued partner.”
Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association president David Connolly (left) said producers expect that their animals will be treated wekk at all times through the supply chain and will be awaiting the outcomes of the investigation.
“The expectations of the NTCA and our members are that our animals are appropriately treated at every point of the supply chain at all times,” Mr Connolly said.
“We’ve been informed by ALEC that an issue has occurred in Indonesia and that the Federal Regulator is investigating it.
“We await the outcome of this investigation and support the actions of the government and exporters in moving to address any issues identified.
“Many of the graduates of the NTCA’s Indonesia-Australia Pastoral Program (NIAPP) where we bring Indonesian students to NT Pastoral stations to teach them about our industry are now working for exporters in-market as Animal Welfare Officers.
“We’re proud of their achievements and send them our best wishes in this difficult time.”