The latest report on the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) reveals continuing systemic failures in regulating the trade.
The report, released last week by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, involves 514 animals and includes the outcomes of four new investigations resulting in six major breaches relating to animals exported to Malaysia, Vietnam and Israel, and two critical breaches pertaining to animals exported to Vietnam.
The report describes all too familiar scenes such as lame animals, sheep dragged by ropes around the neck and legs, trussed into the boots of cars, ear tags being removed to prevent traceability and animals being taken to private residences and slaughtered with ‘a sawing motion’.
Overwhelmingly, the report conceded a loss of control over the locations of the animals as they were taken outside of the approved supply chains.
“These reports keep showing what we already know - that live exporters and the Australian Government have no hope of controlling how exported animals are treated in foreign countries,” said RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer, Dr Jed Goodfellow.
“In September 2017, a major incident in Malaysia saw sheep being removed from approved supply chains right under the nose of the exporter’s Animal Welfare Officer. The Officer and six other security guards were powerless to stop the incident reportedly caused by “an out of control crowd event.”
More concerning still were the additional reports of major noncompliance by a repeat offending importer in Vietnam who the Department of Agriculture suspended back in 2015 only to re-approve the business for receiving Australian cattle several months later.
The original suspension related to its involvement in major and critical noncompliances including supply chain breaches involving almost 2,000 animals, some of whom ended up in ‘backyard abattoirs.’
“It is very concerning to now find out that this re-approved importer is yet again flouting Australian export rules by intentionally on-selling 309 cattle to China and ‘deliberately interfering with control and traceability systems at the feedlot by covering CCTV cameras.’
“Astonishingly, the Department’s report concludes by stating that ‘this incident will be taken into account when considering any applications for the importer or facilities to be reapproved.’
“Re-reapproved? When will enough, be enough? How many times does an importer have to intentionally flout Australian export requirements before they are permanently banned from receiving Australian animals?
“This is just another blatant example of the Australian Government rubber stamping supply chains despite the known risks to animal welfare. It’s making a mockery of Australia’s supposedly world-leading live animal export laws.
“The only way to prevent the cruelty of the live export trade is to slaughter the animals humanely here in Australia, and export the meat. This is a win for animal welfare and a win for local jobs and regional communities,” said Dr Goodfellow.