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Greens say MLA should police ESCAS

Beef Central, 19/11/2012

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon says Meat & Livestock Australia should be responsible for reporting any incidents of animal mistreatment its representatives observe in overseas abattoirs.

In a media release issued on Monday, the Greens senator said agriculture minister Joe Ludwig and MLA appeared to have conflicting positions on what action MLA should take if and when its representatives observe supply chain breaches.

The Department of Agriculture is currently investigating allegations that the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) was breached at Cibinong abattoir in West Java in Indonesia on September 28.

In lodging a complaint Animals Australia has alleged Australian cattle were slaughtered in the abattoir using roping methods that are not permitted under ESCAS.

Senator Rhiannon said the Greens understood that MLA consultants were present during the incident yet it was reported by Animals Australia, not MLA.

At the October Budget Estimates session MLA stated it was not its role to report breaches of ESCAS.  In the hearing General Manager, MLA Trade and Economic Services, Peter Barnard stated: “Our role is not as a policeman or regulator. Our role is to assist supply chains with ESCAS compliance and we conduct that role diligently.”

Senator Rhiannon said in response to a question in the senate on Monday, Minister Ludwig stated that he would expect MLA to report any breaches it observes.

"The Minister and MLA clearly need to get their story straight on who has an obligation to report breaches of the ESCAS system," Senator Rhiannon said.

"The MLA receives a significant amount of government funding yet in Senate Estimates, MLA appeared to wash its hands of reporting supply chain breaches.

"It should not be up to animal rights organisations to be the watchdog eyes and ears of the government when it comes to reporting animal cruelty in overseas abattoirs.”

Senator Rhiannon said MLA consultants were frequently on the ground in overseas abattoirs, often in the absence of any other government staff, and it eroded the credibility of the ESCAS system if MLA did not see its role as reporting breaches.

"I urge Senator Ludwig to impose an obligation, not just an expectation, on MLA to report incidents of animal cruelty and any suspected ESCAS breaches they observe or learn of,” the Senator said.

Meat & Livestock Australia told Beef Central it was responding to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry's requests for information about the activities of personnel in the region and at Cibinong abattoir as part of the department's investigation.

"The Australian Government is the regulator of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS)," MLA said in a statement.

"It is the obligation of supply chain enterprises to ensure their compliance with ESCAS and report to the Government.

"MLA conducts gap analyses of abattoirs and reports the outcomes of such assessment to the importers and exporters involved in the supply chain being assessed. MLA is not an auditor or regulator nor does it have a policing role."



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