Live Export

New images underline gap in export protections

James Nason, 19/09/2012

Newly-released images showing Australian livestock in appalling conditions in the Middle East have shone the spotlight on the lack of regulatory controls for livestock exported for breeding and dairying purposes.

ABC television’s 7:30 Report last night broadcast pictures of starving and dying Australian cattle and sheep in a livestock facility near Doha in Qatar.

The program said the images were provided by Deb Clark, an Australian veterinary technician who worked at the farm as a consultant.

She told the 7:30 Report that the facility lacked basic cattle handling and watering infrastructure when she first arrived there earlier this year. She said some improvements were made but large numbers of sheep and cattle perished in heatwave conditions during her absence last month when farm employees failed to feed the animals, failed to provide adequate access to water and failed to maintain air-conditioning in calf pens.

In a written response to last night's program, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) said it was appalled by the images, but emphasised that the husbandry practices shown were not typical of practices applied to Australian dairy and breeder cattle exported to the Middle East.

“Typical husbandry practices for high value dairy and breeder cattle are supported through appropriate infrastructure that delivers the specific animal welfare needs of productive livestock including provision of appropriate nutrition, water and shelter,” the ALEC statement said.

The council also urged the Qatar Government to investigate the alleged cruelty and encouraged the Australian Government to provide any information it had to support an investigation.

The latest cruelty allegations have drawn attention to the lack of regulatory controls that exist to protect the welfare of Australian livestock exported outside the direct to feedlot and abattoir market.

The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System introduced by the Australian Government in the wake of evidence of mistreatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs last year covers cattle exported direct to feedlots and abattoirs.

It does not cover livestock that exported outside that system, such as those sold into breeding programs or milking herds.

Major exporters have told Beef Central that despite the lack of ESCAS protections currently in place for these livestock, they will not sell breeding or dairy cattle without contractual conditions in place to ensure they will be processed through ESCAS-approved supply chains.

However the lack of formal regulation covering exported breeding or dairy livestock leaves the door open for animals to still be handled outside Australian Government approved facilities.

In his review of the livestock export trade last year former Australian ambassador to Indonesia Bill Farmer recommended that the Australian Government develop a policy to ensure the welfare of breeding cattle in foreign countries. 

Australian livestock export industry leaders have been working with their counterparts in export markets for several months to develop an ESCAS protocol for Australian breeding cattle.

It is a complicated process because the protocol has to account for all of the many scenarios into which Australian breeding cattle can be sold, from large-scale Government and private owned breeding far-based programs to breedlot and cattle under palm scenarios to small lot holders dispersed across wide geographic areas. 

ALEC said in its statement that it is actively working with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to develop an Australian Government breeder policy in response to the Farmer Inquiry recommendation.

DAFF deputy secretary Philip Glyde told the 7:30 Report that the Australia Government is examining regulatory controls for breeding cattle as part of its current review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL).
 

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