Two live cattle exporters will be required to operate under closer Government scrutiny as a result of footage obtained in Indonesian abattoirs by Animals Australia earlier this year.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has completed a two-month investigation into video footage supplied by Animals Australia in late February, which documented examples of cattle being mistreated in Indonesian abattoirs.
Animals Australia claimed that some of the footage involved Australian cattle being processed in abattoirs approved under the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) program. The animal rights group said the footage provided evidence that the Federal Government’s ESCAS system, designed to ensure the welfare of Australian animals in overseas abattoirs, was not working.
DAFF said its investigation found that the footage did contain evidence of non-compliance with the ESCAS program, and that it has taken action against two companies which exported Australian cattle involved in the footage – International Livestock Exports and North Australian Cattle Company.
The Federal Government released the following statement detailing its findings this morning:
“The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has conducted a thorough investigation of the video footage of practices at some Indonesian abattoirs provided to it by Animals Australia on Friday 24 February 2012.
“The department does not tolerate the mistreatment of animals and takes all allegations of animal welfare abuse seriously.
“The department’s investigation identified four abattoirs in the footage. Two of these abattoirs were part of an approved Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). There is evidence of non-compliance with the ESCAS animal welfare performance targets in these two abattoirs.
“The department has investigated the footage taken at the other two abattoirs and will not be taking any action as there is no evidence the animals involved were sourced from Australia.
“The Secretary of DAFF, as regulator of the live animal export system, accepted the recommendations of the report and has taken regulatory action against two exporters indentified in the investigation, International Livestock Exports and North Australian Cattle Company, in line with his powers under the relevant legislation, including the Export Control Act 1982.
“This regulatory action comprises:
“Removing the two abattoirs identified in the footage from each of these two exporters’ approved supply chains;
“Placing additional conditions on the two exporters, including having animal welfare officers present in all abattoirs in their approved supply chains where cattle are slaughtered using a modified Mark 4 restraint box without stunning;
“Increasing the intensity of auditing of the exporter’s approved supply chains where cattle are slaughtered using a modified Mark 4 restraint box without stunning.
“If further animal welfare breaches occur in these exporters’ supply chains, they face additional penalties under the relevant legislation, including the possible loss of their export license.
“The investigation also makes three general observations, including that additional requirements could be placed on all future export applications and that the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer conduct a further investigation into the Mark 4 restraint box when used without mechanical head and neck restraint.
“The Australian and Indonesian Governments have cooperated closely in this investigation and the Indonesian Government has been informed of its outcomes.
“This investigation has taken place under Australia’s new regulatory system for live animal exports – ESCAS. The system includes procedures to investigate allegations of animal welfare breaches and to take appropriate action where required.
“Since the introduction of the new regulatory framework in July 2011, 329,772 cattle and 436,164 sheep have been exported under ESCAS requirements to five countries. Of those, 288,000 have been feeder cattle shipped to Indonesia. ESCAS is now being progressively rolled out to Australia’s other main livestock export markets.
“The new system provides a level of visibility and transparency of how animals are treated through the whole export process. This investigation shows that when there is evidence of a problem we will take action.”
Australian LIve Exporters Council Response:
The Australian Live Exporters Council says it has welcomed the completion of the DAFF investigation into the alleged breaches of the ESCAS in Indonesia in January this year.
CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Alison Penfold said the two exporters highlighted in the investigation undertook the necessary remedial action immediately upon notification of operational deficiencies, thus ensuring they comply with the requirements of ESCAS.
“This included the cessation of supply to one abattoir, installation of head restraint infrastructure, additional training of abattoir workers and the appointment of additional animal welfare officers in the facilities.
"One of the key differences between now and twelve months ago is that the new regulatory system enables exporters to very quickly identify, isolate and fix any activities that do not meet the required animal welfare standards.
"As industry constructs new infrastructure and implements changes to slaughter procedures and practices, issues will arise but what is important is that when they do, exporters and their Indonesian customers are swiftly taking action to ensure the wellbeing of livestock.
Ms Penfold said the new export arrangements have helped transform the way Australian animals are managed through the export supply chain. Standards have been raised and the welfare processes and practices that sit behind the new regulatory system, ESCAS, continue to improve.
Even so, exporters are concerned that the Government’s regulatory response fails to credit the remedial work undertaken by the two exporters involved and is unnecessarily heavy handed in placing additional requirements on other facilities.
“The Governments response adds significant extra cost burdens to the supply chain and does not take into account that the ESCAS is a new system which sets unprecedented requirements on the exporters that must be delivered in developing countries.
“To increase compliance measures on to other facilities which were not party to the investigation and which are operated and staffed separately is a serious regulatory overreach.
"The industry remains committed to ESCAS and the wellbeing of the animals as they pass through the supply chain. While any instances of non-compliance are regrettable, what this DAFF report highlights is how just quickly industry responds to isolate and fix problems when they arise in order deliver the required standards of animal welfare.”
Statement from Agriculture minster Joe Ludwig:
Minister for agriculture Joe Ludwig provided the following statement this morning:
"Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, welcomed the report released today by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) into alleged breaches of approved exporter supply chains in Australia’s live export trade.
“The independent regulator, DAFF, has completed its investigation and taken action against those exporters found to be in breach of their approved supply chains,” Minister Ludwig said.
"Last year, the Gillard Government rolled out significant reforms to the live export trade. There is now a system in place that allows the regulator to identify supply chains, identify animals, and identify exporters. It allows the regulator to investigate when the required standards are not met, and take action, as has occurred in this instance.
"The new system provides the checks and balances the community expects for the live export trade to continue.
“This Government continues to support the trade, as well as the jobs, families and communities that rely upon it,” Minister Ludwig said.
“The fact that some exporters do not meet the standards we require should not overshadow the progress that many in the industry have made to date.”
"The new regulatory system has been rolled out to cover 75 per cent of Australia’s live export markets, with 99 per cent to be covered by the end of August. By the end of 2012, all markets will be covered.
"For more information about the new system or the report, contact the regulator, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, or visit www.liveexports.gov.au."