Australia’s livestock export industry has voluntarily suspended exports to Egypt after Animals Australia produced new footage allegedly showing Australian cattle enduring “shocking” treatment in the country.
The footage, given to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry last Wednesday, was allegedly filmed in October 2012 and April 2013 in the only two abattoirs that are accredited to handle Australian cattle in the market.
It is understood ABC current affairs program 7:30 will broadcast the videos tonight.
The cattle in the footage are believed to be from two shipments of 30,000 Australian cattle delivered to Egypt in July 2012.
Australian livestock export industry leaders learned about the existence of new footage on Thursday, and industry groups were given the chance to view it on Friday.
The videos contain “shocking and deeply distressing” cases of extreme animal cruelty, according to Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold.
One video reportedly shows the vicious, cruel and clumsy emergency slaughter of an injured animal in a holding yard of an abattoir, while a second shows appalling practices during the slaughter process.
“I feel distraught,” Ms Penfold said in a joint industry statement released on Friday night.
“These acts are horrific. The outrageous cruelty has left me and my industry colleagues disgusted and horrified.
“No one in our industry, and no Australian, accepts such treatment of animals, and I believe the Egyptian authorities will not tolerate this.”
DAFF, the official regulator, advised on Friday afternoon that it had received a complaint of alleged animal welfare concerns in Egyptian abattoirs and had written formally to Egyptian authorities requesting an investigation in line with the Memorandum of Understanding on the Handling and Slaughter of Australian Live Animals between Australia and Egypt.
"DAFF has consulted with Egyptian officials and is pleased with the levels of cooperation offered," a DAFF statement said.
Ms Penfold said ALEC was in complete support of the investigations.
“We will assist the fullest possible investigations in both countries of how these events could be possible, and how to stop a repeat of this behaviour,” she said.
“While such cases are very few, and the vast portion of live export achieves high standards, such unconscionable cruelty cannot be tolerated and our industry will eradicate it.”
She said the sector has voluntarily suspended exports to the facilities until there is evidence that practices and procedures comply with international animal welfare guidelines.
“This means no cattle exports to Egypt in the foreseeable future,” Ms Penfold said.
The last shipments of Australian cattle sent to Egypt were two consignments collectively totalling around 30,000 head delivered in July last year.
About 3000 cattle remain, 700 head still in a feedlot at the Port of Sokhna and the remainder at a feelot at Ismailia near Alexandria.
Australian cattle exports to Egypt were banned in 2006 after current affairs program 60 Minutes broadcast video footage from Animals Australia showing Australian animals suffering cruel treatment in the Bassateen abattoir in Cairo.
Exports to the country resumed in 2008 under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian and Egyptian governments. The MOU requires that Australian cattle only be delivered into “closed-loop” supply chains which comprise accredited feedlots and abattoirs and to prevent them being handled in non-approved facilities.
The trade has ground to halt since last August when a dispute emerged over the presence of Hormone Growth Promotant implants in some of the cattle exported from Australia.
Egyptian import protocols do prohibit the use of HGP implants in imported cattle, or mention the use of HGPs, however the Egyptian Government placed a sudden and unexpected ban on the processing of the Australian cattle in August last year until it could be satisfied that HGPs posed no risk to human health.
That ban was lifted in late September, but questions over whether HGP-treated cattle will be allowed into the market in future remain unresolved, and no further cattle have been shipped as a result of the ongoing uncertainty over the issue.
Animals Australia said in a statement on its website on Friday night that the footage was filmed by its investigators.
“The evidence they gathered is damning, showing Australian cattle being subjected to brutal treatment in the country's only two accredited abattoirs,” it said in a media release issued late Friday night.
“Footage has been provided to the Federal Department of Agriculture. As a result, Australia’s live export industry — which has consistently lauded these facilities as being state-of-the-art — is in damage control.
“Late tonight they announced that they have voluntarily suspended the live trade to Egypt.
“Brutal treatment of cattle and sheep was first exposed by Animals Australia in 2006. Further animals should never have been supplied to a country where cruelty to animals is routine and considered acceptable.
“The outcomes from this investigation will be revealed early next week in the media.”