The RSPCA and Animals Australia have asked Australian livestock exporters to voluntarily suspend all cattle and buffalo shipments to Vietnam until the trade can publicly declare that every supply chain in the market is secure from an animal welfare perspective.
The demand is part of an additional six-point plan for welfare in Vietnam presented by the groups to the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council in a meeting in Canberra yesterday.
The RSPCA and Animals Australia say they need to address the ongoing situation in Vietnam because of the “continued absence of effective Government intervention” in preventing cruelty in the country.
Meeting rapid demand growth in Vietnam while ensuring all of the country’s 80 plus import supply chains are meeting the strict welfare requirements of Australia’s mandatory Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) has been an ongoing challenge for Australian exporters.
As reported by Beef Central in March, Australian livestock exporters flew to Vietnam for a meeting in Hanoi to collectively address the problem of Australian cattle being sold outside approved supply chains and into abattoirs where their welfare could not be assured.
In the same month three exporters self-reported ESCAS compliance issues to the Department of Agriculture, which are still being investigated. As a result of the meeting all exporters also committed to an additional six-point plan to assure the welfare of cattle in in Vietnam (detailed below this story).
Given the spotlight on leakage issues in the market it seemed likely that Animals Australia would also at some point also go to the media with evidence of welfare problems in Vietnam, and that occurred last week.
The resulting media coverage and refocused public spotlight on the trade has led to renewed calls by the RSPCA, Animals Australia, the Greens and the Australian Meat Industry Employee’s Union for the live export trade to be banned.
It also provided the impetus for yesterday’s meeting in Canberra between the RSPCA, Animals Australia and the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council.
After yesterday’s meeting the RSPCA said it believed the industry’s own six-point plan for Vietnam adopted in March (listed below this article) will not adequately prevent further supply chain non-compliance.
The association said the recent reports of Australian animals being sledgehammered to death in Vietnam echoed complaints that had been made as far back as June 2013 and had left the RSPCA with little confidence that animals would be protected from future abuse without additional conditions being put in place.
The RSPCA and Animals Australia said they presented the following six-point plan to ALEC yesterday outlining “critical measures needed to proactively and urgently address continued non-compliance within the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) in Vietnam”.
Their six-point plan includes:
- Voluntary suspension of trade until ALEC can make a public declaration that Vietnam supply chains are secure.
- All animals (cattle and buffalo) regardless of their country of origin to be restrained and stunned in accordance with Australian ESCAS regulations in ESCAS approved abattoirs.
- Where ESCAS facilities exist in traditional slaughter villages, or in proximity to traditional slaughterhouses, exporters commit to supplying restraint and stunning equipment to all facilities.
- Commit to scanning of ear tags at ESCAS abattoirs post-slaughter and for the process to be captured by CCTV cameras. Associated vision to be supplied to the Department of Agriculture in conjunction with monthly reconciliation reports.
- Log in details to CCTV provided to Department of Agriculture.
- Supply chain access granted on a biannual basis to a suitably qualified independent auditor appointed by RSPCA Australia and Animals Australia.
“While RSPCA Australia continues to oppose the live export trade it is hopeful the industry will see the importance of committing to these measures in order to protect Australian animals whilst ever the trade continues,” the RSPCA said in a media release issued after yesterday’s meeting.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the groups had a “robust discussion”.
She said ALEC would now consider the groups’ six point plan thoroughly and would respond in due course – but “noting the agreed urgency to deal with issues in Vietnam”.
“It is important that action is taken where it has most affect to make the trade in cattle sustainable,” Ms Penfold said in a statement responding to the RSPCA media release.
“That includes minimising the risk of adverse welfare outcomes and having a plan to deal with them when they occur.
“We remain frustrated that the footage of this most recent incident has not been provided to ALEC and industry to be able to deal with issues under our own 6 point plan.
“The footage shown was indeed distressing (Thai bulls repeatedly hit on the head with a sledgehammer) and reflects why industry itself has acknowledged the risks and moved to implement additional measures in the market including the installation of CCTVs in all feedlots and abattoirs in approved supply chains. “
Summary of the six additional welfare standards for Vietnam agreed to by Australian livestock exporters in March:
- Access Standard: An exporter and their representative must have unrestricted access to all facilities within their supply chain.
- Traceability and Reporting Standard: An exporter must be able to individually identify the location of all animals in the supply chain through an electronic and visual traceability system.
- Equipment Standard: Essential equipment used to trace and handle livestock must be maintained in good repair and effective working order and auditable maintenance and replacement system must be in place.
Feedlot: The facility must have the following items in good repair and working order:
– At least one RFID scanner
– A cattle crush
– At least one stunner (and a minimum of 20 cartridges)
– At least 3 cattle talkers
– The facility must have a maintenance and repair plan and log of activities that is accessible to Supply Chain Officers for verification purposes
Abattoir: The facility must have the following items in good repair and working order:
– At least one RFID scanner
– At least one restraining box
– One stunner and one backup stunner for each restraining box
– At least three cattle talkers
The facility must have a maintenance and repair plan and log that is accessible to Supply Chain Officers for verification purposes. Supply Chain Officers must carry a spare stunner and scanner at all times.
- SOP Documentation Standard: Each facility must have knowledge of and display Standard Operating Procedures
- Human Resources Standard: Each supply chain must have trained and dedicated staff at each critical control point to oversee, verify and audit animal welfare and traceability
- CCTV Monitoring Standard: Working real time CCTV at key control points with remote monitoring and recording capability
Feedlot: Working CCTV at discharge and loading, and crush/raceway
Abattoir: Working CCTV at unloading ramp, lairage and restraining box