ALEC Responds to ABC Lateline Story on Livestock Export Trade

The CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporter’s Council said the industry is acting to overcome the threats posed to animal welfare from the illegal removal of Australian livestock from approved supply chains. The comments came in response to the story aired on ABC Lateline this evening.

“Tonight we have sadly seen the mistreatment of livestock in overseas markets by persons seemingly lacking in regard for the pain and suffering of animals as a result of their actions.

“Cruelty of this nature, wherever it takes place, is unnecessary and inexcusable. It remains shocking for all to see and necessitates urgent action by local authorities in destination markets and the World Organisation for Animal Health and Welfare (OIE) to address serious deficiencies in the treatment, handling and slaughter of livestock around the world.

“Australian exporters are not the world’s animal welfare policemen but we won’t shirk from our responsibilities for welfare when the unnecessary suffering of Australian exported livestock is caused by failures on our part. Livestock are our livelihood and the welfare of the animals matters to us so to see such cruelty executed pains us as well.

“To prevent further poor treatment of livestock we have to overcome the greatest threat to our welfare responsibilities and our control systems – the unsanctioned removal or leakage of livestock from supply chains. We won’t ride off the back of excuses for it but understanding the reasons for leakage are important to finding ways of minimising the risk of it.

“Unapproved and unsanctioned removal of livestock from approved facilities has largely stemmed from restrictions on access to Australian livestock as a result of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). While ESCAS has significantly assisted in improving welfare of Australian exported livestock, it has come with consequences, and that includes taking away the supply of Australian livestock from many legitimate small local businesses in destination markets – particularly in the Middle East – that had previously relied on trading Australian livestock for their living.

“Many of these operators are desperate for Australian animals that attract a market premium and will do anything to get them. Such desperation has in created a black market which we are actively working to curb. Such actions include:-

– Restricted supply chains and livestock sales systems to reduce access to Australian livestock and direct them to facilities that meet international animal welfare standards
– In Jordan and Kuwait, sheep have been paint marked to indicate the abattoirs to which they are destined to make it harder for illegal trading
– The sacking of staff found guilty of facilitating leakage
– The complete removal of facilities that do not meet our exacting standards
– In the high risk period of Eid Al Adha, supporting abattoirs to move to carcass sales system rather than sales of live animals to the general public for home slaughter
– Encouraging and supporting charity slaughtering whereby large numbers of Australian sheep are processed at ESCAS facilities and distributed to the poor to again remove individual sales and selection pressures

“We will also continue innovate and implement new ways of strengthening our control and traceability activities to make it harder for outsiders to circumvent our systems. This could include but is not limited to investment in the development of new tamper proof ear tags and swifter destruction of tags from slaughtered livestock.”

Ms Penfold said that while the relative number of livestock that have leaked from supply chains is relatively small against the millions of animals that have been exported into approved supply chains where handling and slaughter is done by trained personnel with appropriate knowledge and oversight of humane handling and slaughter procedures, it is the outcome of leakage from approved systems that is often most severe and upsetting and reminds us why it is so important to manage Australian exported livestock through supply chains in overseas markets.

“While incidents such as we have seen tonight cast doubt over our industry’s commitment to animal welfare, we have now trained over 7,000 people across our supply chains in animal handling and slaughter procedures, overseen infrastructure improvements to feedlots and abattoirs and placed better equipment including new restraining boxes and stunning equipment into facilities. This direct involvement by Australian exporters in cooperation with our customers has seen vastly improved welfare outcomes for Australian exported livestock, and local livestock in some instances, in the last three years.

“We know that the job is far from over and that changing entrenched attitudes and behaviours to animals won’t happen overnight. The fact is that the scale of welfare improvements underway will take time to fully implement and there will be setbacks along the way as the change process takes hold.

“While our performance is at times imperfect, in the main we are securing the welfare of exported livestock. We are striving to root out those elements that undermine our efforts and cause unnecessary pain and suffering of animals as we have seen tonight.”


Alison Penfold (0408 633 026)

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