Live Export

New year brings fresh challenges for live export trade

James Nason, 11/01/2013

The negative media that plagued the livestock export industry through 2012 has continued into 2013, with new claims of possible regulatory breaches under investigation.  

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed it has launched a new investigation after an exporter self-reported an incident in which a consignment containing pregnant cattle was shipped to Mauritius, despite official certification stating that none of the cattle onboard were pregnant.

That deveopment came as Australian media outlets also published disturbing photographs showing live Brahman-type cattle being suspended by their necks from a crane as they were unloaded from a ship to a dock in East Java.

The images, captured by an AFP phorographer in Surabaya, showed Indonesian cattle that had no connection to Australia’s live export industry, but have been used by anti-live export campaigners as further ammunition for their push to close the trade.

“This is yet another disturbing example of why independent oversight of this cruel industry is necessary,” West Australian MP Melissa Parke told The Australian in relation to the pictures.

Federal Labor MP and vocal live export industry critic Kelvin Thomson said he has written to Indonesia’s Agriculture Minister Suswono expressing his concern about the “distressing and confronting” images.

Anti-live export industry forums established in response to the images have sparked numerous comments calling for Australia’s live export trade to be banned.

The Australian Livestock Exporters Council said it has been advised that the animals pictured are Sumba Ongole cattle, a local Indonesian breed containing some Brahman blood content.

The visible brandings on the animals, which include brands on the neck and shoulder, a method not used in Australia, also supported the view they were Indonesian bred cattle.

ALEC also pointed out that Australia does not export cattle to the region of Indonesia where the pictures were taken.

ALEC chief executive officer Alison Penfold said exporters had been frustrated by comments that attempted to tie the disturbing images of the cattle in Indonesia to Australia’s live export industry.

“It was obvious from the start they weren’t Australian cattle,” she said.

“We can tell from the pictures due to the branding on the neck and shoulder and the bone structure and the placement of the horns etc that they are not Australian cattle.

“It is frustrating to think that we are forever going to chase our tail because someone somewhere has a phone or a camera and takes a photograph of something that is not good practice that has nothing to do with Australian cattle, and that somehow we’re answerable to it.”

Investigation into Mauritius shipment

The Department of Agriculture confirmed on Monday it is investigating a potential breach of export regulations after exporter South East Asian Livestock Services (SEALS) self-reported issues stemming from a recent shipment to Mauritius.

The October 2012 shipment contained pregnant heifers, two of which calved on the 10-day journey from Australia.

That was despite the consignment having been cleared for export by Australian authorities who signed a health certificate declaring that “none of the female cattle were pregnant at the time of export”.

Mauritius does not allow the slaughter of pregnant cattle.

The Australian newspaper reported that the importer of the cattle “was furious” when it discovered some of the heifers were pregnant.

The importer has also since claimed that 65 cattle from the shipment were later found dead in a feedlot in suspicious circumstances. Police in Mauritius are said to be investigating how the cattle died and allegations they may have been poisoned.

South East Asian Livestock Services said all the heifers on the shipment had been manually preg-tested or spayed in accordance with ASEL standards prior to their departure in early October.

It said it had all appropriate certification from veterinarians and vendors, verified by DAFF, prior to the vessel being loaded.

“Two heifers gave birth on the voyage, but it is not clear how advanced their pregnancies were at the time of departure,” a SEALS spokesperson said.

“Further pregnancy testing undertaken in Mauritius in mid-November confirmed a number of pregnancies that may have occurred before or after the voyage and on this basis SEALS reported the issue to DAFF.”

DAFF has stated it is investigating the matter and will work with local investigators in Mauritius if its assistance is required. 


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