The Federal Department of Agriculture this week released its latest quarterly Regulatory Performance Report on Australia’s assurance system for live exports.
Two exporters released statements in response to the report which appear in full below. The statements detail their responses to non-compliance issues in Israel which occurred on 20 May 2015 and which were reported by Animals Australia.
The RSPCA also released a statement yesterday describing the report as a ‘litany of failure and horrific treatment of Australian livestock’.
The RSPCA said the report includes incidents in Gaza of ‘cattle being forcibly dragged or made to jump off trucks,’ ‘slaughter without the use of appropriate restraint facilities’, ‘the use of multiple cuts and stabbing or sawing motions’, and ‘animals still conscious several minutes after first cut made’.
RSPCA Australia’s Chief Scientist and Strategy Officer, Dr Bidda Jones, said Australians and the producers who sold their live animals into the export market would be appalled by the details in the report.
“The report details investigations into incidents as far back as February 2014 in Gaza, May 2015 in Israel, June 2015 in Vietnam, and November 2015 in Thailand. The length of time taken to report back to the public, farmers and the industry is totally unsatisfactory,” Dr Jones said.
“Of the many disturbing incidents outlined in the report, the non-compliance events in Thailand and Vietnam reveal that exporters are rushing into these new and yet non-compliant markets.
“ESCAS is supposed to ensure all exported Australian animals are handled and slaughtered according to minimum standards set by the Australian Government. This is obviously not the case.
“There was also a report of 134 cattle which were ‘lost’ by the exporter in Thailand. They turned up in Vietnam.
Dr Jones said the report recorded two critical non-compliances against the exporter Livestock Shipping Services (LSS). ‘Critical’ incidents are the highest form of non-compliance.
“LSS has now racked up three critical, two major and one minor non-compliance, yet not one of these incidents has resulted in a prosecution. What is the point of having a regulatory system if those who abuse it are allowed to continue business as usual?
“This report, and its description of a litany of cruelty to Australian animals, is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Most of these investigations rely entirely on reporting from third parties, including video footage from Animals Australia.
One incident investigated in Vietnam resulted from a coincidental visit by Meat and Livestock Australia staff to a local abattoir that was not ESCAS approved.
“It is also very disturbing to read that there is renewed industry interest in reviving the export trade to Gaza, despite multiple confirmed reports of serious animal welfare breaches in that market.
“The report fails to mention that 29 complaints of breaches of live export regulations are still under investigation, dating as far back as December 2014. Many of them involve Australian sheep and cattle being sold outside the supply chain with ‘unknown or potential adverse animal welfare outcomes’. Put simply, this means those animals are being slaughtered inhumanely.
“ESCAS was supposed to ensure Australian animals would be exported into markets overseas where minimum standards could be guaranteed. This report proves that is not the case, and it reveals the ongoing industry and Government failure to enforce animal welfare standards in sovereign countries,” said Dr Jones.
Statement from exporter LSS:
WA based exporter LSS issued the following statement in response to the release of the Government’s latest quarterly live export performance report:
CONTINUED IMPROVEMENT IN ISRAEL SUPPLY CHAIN
Additional training and resources by Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) in ESCAS facilities in Israel is continuing to improve treatment, handling and slaughter of Australian cattle to ESCAS standards, the Managing Director of LSS Mr Ahmad Ghosheh said today.
Mr Ghosheh’s comments come in response to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources release of the investigation report into the May 2014 non-compliance complaint at an abattoir facility in Israel.
“As soon as I became aware of the problems at the facility, I took swift action and with my staff, worked with the Department, the other exporter to the market and the owner of the abattoir to undertake necessary immediate changes on the slaughter floor to stop any handling and slaughter practices that did not meet the required standards.
“This was despite concerns that the cattle in question may not have been of Australian origin,” Mr Ghosheh said.
“We worked with the owner and operator of the facility to deal with and ensure that handling and slaughter of cattle were corrected as quickly as was practicable.
The actions taken at the abattoir included:
- Immediately suspending several employees at the facility found to be acting not in accordance with standard operating procedures and operations
- Immediately having the operator of the facility agree to full management and control of the livestock slaughter process coming under the authority of Australian representatives in the market
- Engaging and sending directly to the facility an Australian qualified veterinary consultant to review and assess slaughter procedures with full control and authority to modify and correct any process in the supply chain; and
- Commencement of an immediate intensive re-training and specialist evaluation program around point of slaughter operations to ensure OIE standards are met on a consistent basis for all cattle slaughtered at the facility. “These actions mean that today 10 months later abattoir staff, overseen by management, are better equipped to do their jobs to the required standards and that there is a greater understanding and commitment to consistency in animal welfare practices that meet Kosher requirements.”
Mr Ghosheh said that LSS continues to invest in animal welfare improvement programs in Israel and throughout the wider Middle East region.
“We as a company work with our customers to meet our obligations and responsibility to the livestock that we export through supply chains that can demonstrate continuous improvement in practices and consistent compliance with ESCAS.
“No one likes to see animals mistreated in life or death and LSS remains committed to ensuring constant improvement of in market animal welfare of livestock, Australian or otherwise.”
Otway Livestock Exports statement:
LIVESTOCK EXPORTERS & IMPORTERS ACT SWIFTLY TO ENSURE ANIMAL WELFARE IN ISRAEL
Australian livestock exporters and their customers in Israel moved swiftly after being provided with footage of unsatisfactory animal handling and slaughter at an abattoir facility in Israel in May last year.
Otway Livestock Exports (Otway) Managing Director, Alan Schmidt, said: “Otway and the owner of the facility take great pride in their track record and reputation of ensuring the welfare of all animals under our management.
“Our businesses depend on healthy, well cared for animals and we were extremely alarmed and concerned when initially provided details of these reports on May 28 last year.”
In the week following the provision of the footage, senior management at the facility moved swiftly to reinforce the message that animal welfare was their highest priority.
This included the immediate termination of three offending staff members, increased oversight through the installation of CCTV cameras throughout the abattoir and the appointment and ongoing training of two additional Animal Welfare Managers and two Animal Welfare Officers.
“The senior staff at Dabbah immediately moved to address the issues in the video footage. In fact, it was addressed within 24 hours of them becoming aware, staff were dismissed and a number of truck operators were banned from delivering to the facility,” Mr Schmidt said.
Since the initial corrective actions were put in place immediately after the report, the owners and managers of the abattoir, along with Australian exporters, Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) and Otway have invested significant additional time and resources into ongoing training, improvement and implementation of standard operating procedures and internal reporting, as well as the purchase and improvement of animal handling equipment and facilities.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) confirmed in their findings that “…the dates and timeframe over which the video was taken could not be verified. It was also not possible to determine if the cattle or sheep were of Australian origin…”
However, the department still chose to pursue and manage the complaint through the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) which regulates the handling and slaughter of Australian livestock in destination countries around the world. As a result, the facility has been subjected to monthly independent auditing to ESCAS standards with no further reports of non-compliance.
This has recently been reduced to quarterly independent audits plus an additional week-long audit each quarter completed by an Australian veterinarian or welfare expert approved by DAWR and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).
Otway Operations Manager, Jim Teasdale, said: “We do not dispute the seriousness of the poor treatment of some animals in the footage, and as an active participant in that market, we take great pride and responsibility to ensure the integrity of our supply chains for the safety and welfare of our animals.
“It is, however, an ongoing frustration to industry, and animal welfare groups alike, that an incident that was initially reported, and remedied, over nine months ago, and not proven to involve Australian animals, has led to more resources allocated to paperwork and reporting than into real action to support the industry’s proven achievements of continuous improvement in animal welfare.”
Sources: RSPCA, LSS, OLE. Further details about the report (no. 57) can be found via the following link: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/export/controlled-goods/live-animals/livestock/regulatory-framework/compliance-investigations/investigations-regulatory-compliance