Live Export

New footage documents cattle cruelty in the Gaza Strip

James Nason, 11/12/2013

A still from one of three videos that form the basis of complaints of cruelty to animals in the Gaza Strip.More shocking footage involving the mistreatment of cattle has emerged out of the Middle East.

The Australian Livestock Exporters Council this afternoon publicly released details of three videos it says it first received in November and passed onto the official regulator, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 12 days later.

One of three videos which have been posted to You Tube shows a man armed with a semi-automatic rifle shooting at the legs of an untethered bull in a courtyard, believed to be located in the Gaza Strip.

A second video shows a bull being restrained by a rope against a wall and then slaughtered while standing with a single knife cut to the throat.

A third video shows members of a parkour group in the Gaza Strip performing acrobatic manoeuvres on streets in close proximity to tethered cattle.

ALEC says it is concerned that the animals in the videos may be of Australian origin but the footage lacks the resolution required to be able to confirm whether they are from their ear tags.

Two supply chains in the Gaza Strip are accredited under ESCAS to receive Australian cattle, but there has been no indication at this stage as whether the exporters who supply the region have reported leakage of cattle from their supply chains. 

ALEC chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the council received a complaint via a third party of alleged cruelty to Australian exported livestock on November 8.

After considering the footage and conducing internal inquiries, she said the ALEC board referred the complaint and footage of the bull being shot in the legs to DAFF on November 20.

ALEC said that it understands the same footage has now been made available by an animal activist group to media outlets.

“The ALEC Board took the decision that we would report the most serious incident involving a man shooting at the legs of a bull and which was first published on YouTube on 22 October 2013. It is alleged to have been taken place in the Gaza Strip,” a statement from ALEC ceo Alison Penfold said.

“We chose not to release the footage publicly at the time of formally writing to the Department as the vision was gross and disturbing, it’s origin could not be verified and public debate could not add any factual weight to our complaint or formal investigation by the industry’s regulator. Exporters collectively have been horrified by it irrespective of the fact that the animal’s origin has not been able to be verified.

“I am providing a full copy of the ALEC correspondence to the Department to provide full disclosure of ALEC actions in relation to this video. (Link showing ALEC's letter to DAFF below)

“ALEC has responded to an incident we find obscene and occurred outside of an approved supply chain and in private hands. Individual exporters to the market have also taken actions particular to their own circumstances and were encouraged to do so by their peak body (ALEC).”

The latest footage follows recent complaints of alleged cruelty to Australian animals in Mauritius, Jordan and Kuwait, which all involve alleged leakages of Australian animals from ESCAS approved supply chains.

Ms Penfold said ALEC was very much aware of the possible leakages.

“While we await the outcomes of the Department’s investigations into these complaints and without prejudice, industry is considering options to strengthen traceability and control mechanisms within supply chains. 

“With that said, the images present in the footage remind us as a community that we face a global challenge of improving attitudes and behaviours to animals by people who do not handle livestock on a daily basis. 

“Banning the Australian livestock export industry will not resolve this problem – indeed it could make it worse – as it is Australia’s on the ground presence in markets that is showing people a better way to handle and respect livestock.”

ALEC has also released the letter it sent to DAFF reporting the footage. To view the letter click here

The three videos can be viewed at these links. A warning that the footage contains distressing images.


Animals Australia statement

Animals Australia released the following statement overnight in relation to the Gaza Strip footatge:

Evidence of sickening abuse of Australian cattle exported to Gaza should re-ignite a national debate on the legitimacy of the live export trade.

Shocking footage of Australian cattle being abused in the Gaza Strip in October has been provided to all MPs and Senators. Filmed by civilians during the Festival of Sacrifice, the footage shows cattle being terrorised by crowds and tortured in streets and makeshift slaughterhouses – all in breach of Australia's live export regulations.

“There are no words to adequately describe the carnage in these videos and the scale of abuse endured by Australian cattle. It is shocking and completely harrowing to watch,” said Animals Australia Campaign Director, Lyn White.

The dozens of videos uploaded to YouTube show terrified cattle tied to poles, trees and vehicles, being stabbed repeatedly in the neck, having their legs bound before being violently forced to the ground and 'strung out' for slaughter, being beaten and dragged off trucks – and in two particularly sadistic acts – one bound animal was stabbed in the eye, whilst another knee-capped with bullets from an assault rifle.

“Any politician or industry supporter who has propagated the industry's clever PR line that we can improve animal welfare by being in the market should be locked in a room and forced to watch an hour of footage from Gaza.

"Only through viewing this sickening footage can you fully understand the extent of the horror these animals endured. There is a moral imperative on every politician to watch it as many have pre-conditioned their support of live export continuing on the basis that animals are treated humanely.”

Animals Australia has lodged a significant legal complaint in relation to live export breaches in Gaza, the third such complaint in two months following breaches of regulations in Jordan and Mauritius.

“There is now extensive evidence that Australian animals in three export markets were subjected to horrendous cruelty during the Festival of Sacrifice in October – cruel treatment that live export regulations were put in place to prevent.

"The ineffectiveness of Australian regulations is obvious. This situation in Gaza would not even have been known had it not been for an Israeli media report. It is no wonder that at least some exporters are not taking their legal obligations seriously.

“This industry is making fools of politicians and producers by playing on their inability to see the reality for animals in importing markets. So acceptable is this brutal treatment to locals that they are cheering and filming the spectacle on mobile phones.

“This is what Australian exporters have been exporting animals to for decades. It is time for every politician to search their consciences as to how they can allow this trade to continue.

“Politicians need to wake up to the fact that they have had the wool pulled over their eyes. Most Australian farmers do not live export and run profitable businesses. Live export is a small and declining industry worth not even 0.3 % of Australia's total exports – with even alcohol exports more valuable. Yet the entire agricultural sector is tarnished by the existence of the live trade and cruelty associated with it.”


Livestock Shipping Services statement

WA based livestock exporter LSS has released the following statement in relation to the footage:

Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) continues to liaise with DAFF and has conducted a preliminary investigation into claims of potential non-compliance with ESCAS in relation to some cattle that it has exported into a supply chain that extends into Gaza.

LSS made a self-report of this potential non-compliance to DAFF in early November, as soon as the company became aware of the video footage relating to cattle in Gaza.

The initial findings of its investigation have been sent to the Department of Agriculture (DAFF) today and will be followed by a fuller report in due course.

LSS’s preliminary investigation has examined records along the supply chain into Gaza. It appears to have identified a discrepancy that indicates a total of nine (9) cattle may have been released from ESCAS in Gaza via one supply chain facility. Of these nine cattle, two (2) can be identified in some of the footage that has been published by their ear tags.

The release of nine cattle from the Gaza supply chain is unacceptable to LSS and the company proactively suspended exports to the relevant facility last month. No cattle have been supplied to that facility since the start of November.

The nine cattle represent a very small proportion of the 65,000 cattle that have been exported through the LSS- related supply chain into Israel during 2013, with a significant proportion then entering the supply chain into Gaza.

Even though the number of cattle involved appears to be very small, LSS is shocked and appalled at the images that it has viewed and does not condone any of the activities that take place in those videos, no matter whether they involve Australian cattle or cattle from other nations. It is impossible to identify in many of the images where the cattle have originated from, or precisely when the footage was taken.

LSS is a leading exporter of livestock and is committed to both animal welfare and supporting Australian farmers and the Australian agricultural sector by continuing to develop export markets in the Middle East and elsewhere that are ESCAS compliant.

LSS places great importance on establishing the factual accuracy of claims made about poor animal treatment practices, including whether they relate to Australian animals and were relevantly within the reasonable control of the exporter, or indicate issues within the supply chains that have been established under ESCAS.

LSS supports the ESCAS system as a framework within which it can work closely with DAFF and the agricultural sector to continue to make improvements to the way livestock are handled world-wide.



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