Livestock industry leaders have noted the “remarkable improvements” the livestock export trade has achieved in animal welfare outcomes since the implementation of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System in 2011, identified in the release of a Federal Government review yesterday.
However animal welfare groups have dismissed the report’s findings as “spin” designed to give sheep and cattle producers false assurances about the welfare of animals exported live from Australia.
RSPCA: Report glosses over lack of pre-slaughter stunning
RSPCA chief executive office Heather Neil said ESCAS has set a low bar and fails to prevent major suffering for Australian exported animals.
“The report has glossed over the fact that ESCAS does not require animals to be stunned at the point of slaughter, nor requires animals to be held upright for slaughter, meaning they will be fully conscious of the pain and suffering associated with the cut of the throat,” said Ms Neil.
“Allowing unstunned slaughter is much more than just a ‘potentially adverse animal welfare outcome’ – it is horrific cruelty.
“No respectable animal industry in Australia would dare suggest that only 0.16% of animals experience adverse animal welfare outcomes in their production systems – it shows how desperate the Government is to spin the numbers and hide the real facts from Australian producers about the treatment of their animals overseas.”
Lost in the middle of the report is a sentence that acknowledges the Government does not know how well the reported non-compliances reflect the true non-compliance rate.
“It is important to know that our Government does not inspect or even investigate complaints of ESCAS breaches on the ground in importing countries – that has been left largely to animal advocacy groups. Any claim that there is widespread or ongoing compliance with all of the requirements of ESCAS has no sound basis in fact,” said Ms Neil.
“Despite clear evidence of Australian cattle being tortured in Gaza, scenes of cruelty as bad as we saw in Indonesia in 2011, as well as sheep dragged and being killed in back streets in other countries, the report acknowledges that no exporter has been prosecuted due to failure to meet ESCAS requirements.
“The report makes no recommendations as to how the enforcement of the system can be strengthened.”
The RSPCA has significant concerns about the ability of the live export industry to deliver the animal welfare outcomes that are expected by the Australian community, with the report flagging the development of an industry quality assurance scheme.
“The live export industry are proven failures in self-regulation – it is why ESCAS was introduced in the first place.
“Rather than continuing to provide false assurance about the welfare of Australian animals overseas, the Government and cattle and sheep industries need to move away from high risk live exports and continue to expand the much more valuable red meat export market, worth almost $9 billion,” said Ms Neil.
Cattle Council of Australia: Tough ESCAS measures have delivered improved welfare
Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith said the improvements to the live export trade through the development of a more robust animal welfare requirements were welcomed by cattle producers.
National Farmers Federation: Report gives confidence to farmers
In comments made in response to the ESCAS report, the National Farmers Federation said Australian farmers cared about their animalsm and it was in everybody’s interest that community expectations around animal welfare were met.
Australia was the only live exporting nation from more than 100 live exporting countries around the world that regulated animal welfare standards throughout the entire supply chain, all the way across the oceans. Australia was also the only country investing in delivering animal welfare skills to people working in the supply chain.
The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) was introduced to enable the continuation of a trade that employs up to 10,000 Australians either directly or indirectly.
“Since its introduction, 8 million head of livestock have been exported to 19 countries in a trade worth $1.2 billion in 2013-14; with greatly improved animal welfare outcomes,” NFF president Brent Finlay said.
“This gives confidence to farmers, who need safe and reliable export chains to ensure a thriving rural economy.
“Live export supply chain participants have worked tirelessly to meet the standards that have been set.
“The Federal Government Report released today on ESCAS, shows that while the system is not without fault, it has achieved remarkable improvements in animal welfare in a short time. Those are improvements we all want to see.”