Australian livestock exporters have been successful in linking Australia’s competitive advantage in livestock production with countries unable to produce sufficient protein domestically. However, many of these countries do not have a history of livestock production or do so under very different slaughter and welfare conditions to that of Australia.
In recent years, Australia’s livestock export trade has undergone change of a global scale and significance. The impact of shock footage of traditional slaughter practices in Indonesia released in 2011 on the Australian public, transformed the industry almost overnight. Subsequently, a new regulatory regime was introduced – the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) – requiring exporters to take responsibility for the entire supply chain through to point of slaughter.
The health and welfare of livestock along the supply chain is of critical importance to exporters. Not only do healthy and well cared for animals deliver a better return to exporters and producers, it is also crucial to the sustainability of the industry. Australia’s Livestock Export Industry invests significantly in Research and Development, training, education and infrastructure across the supply chain to improve animal welfare outcomes. However, as Images of animal cruelty continue to be strongly associated with the livestock export trade and where poor to appalling treatment of livestock is identified, the trade has faced disruptions, market bans and increased regulatory and political intervention.
Today, it is through a combination of industry initiative and government regulation that the Australian Livestock Export Industry strives to assure the welfare of exported livestock and improve animal welfare globally.
WATCH: Australian Livestock Exports – The Animal Welfare Challenge
Through a joint program between LiveCorp and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), the Livestock Export Program (LEP) invests producer and exporter levies into a range of livestock export activities along the supply chain, of which animal welfare is a core focus. These programs include delivering animal handing and slaughter training, providing in-market support, conducting gap and risk analysis and provide assistance with engaging local animal welfare officers.
The LEP conducts in-market training programs with a focus on animal handling and slaughter and supports exporters and importers to improve welfare outcomes. These training programs promote ESCAS requirements, OIE guidelines and the adoption of Standard Operating Procedures.
A key activity of the LEP is to provide additional support in market during key festival periods in livestock importing counties such as Ramadan in Indonesia, Eid al Adha in the Middle East and Africa and Korban in South East Asia.
Due to the high demand for livestock during these festivals, the LEP provides exporters with assistance to improve on ground management and operations and infrastructure, remove hazards and reduce risks. This work helps to ensure the welfare of exported livestock during these busy periods and assist exporters in meeting ESCAS compliance requirements.
Gap and Risk analysis;
The LEP undertakes work to identify and understand potential problem areas and hazards in new supply chains that may need adjusting to meet ESCAS requirements.
At the request of Australian exporters, the LEP has completed nearly 100 gap analysis reports since the introduction of ESCAS. Gap and risk analysis assessments have also been undertaken in Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Brunei and Mauritius.
This work delivers recommendations to exporters and their importing partners to reduce risks in supply chains and assure the welfare of livestock.
Animal Welfare Officers;
A more recent initiative of the LEP is to assist exporters with funding to place locally engaged animal welfare or supply chain officers in markets. These officers assist exporters in meeting their ESCAS requirement by ensuring that customers meet their contractual and welfare compliance obligations, help to identify emerging risks in supply chains and support on the ground health and welfare initiatives in export markets.
Under the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) exporters must ensure livestock traceability throughout the entire supply chain. This ensures that livestock remain within an approved supply chain and provides assurance that the subsequent handling and slaughter is accordance with international animal welfare recommendations.
The introduction of ESCAS as well as the critical investment made by Australian exporters, foreign importers and importing governments has had a substantial impact on welfare outcomes for livestock exported from Australia. For example, prior to the implementation of ESCAS around 15% of cattle exported from Australia to Indonesia were stunned pre-slaughter. Since the introduction of ESCAS, it is estimated that this has increased to approximately 85%.
Australia Exporters are also required to comply with the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL), which applies to the preparation of livestock for the voyage from farm through to on-board care and the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) from discharge to point of processing as well as State and Federal Government animal welfare regulations to assure the welfare of exported livestock.
The livestock export industry recognises that that challenges remain and there are still improvements to be made. This includes addressing livestock ‘leakage’ from approved supply chains, which remains the largest threat to the industry.
Australia is the only livestock exporting nation which regulates animal welfare standards throughout the entire supply chain, right through to the point of slaughter in overseas markets. Of more than one hundred countries exporting livestock around the world, Australia is also the only country investing in delivering animal welfare skills to people working in offshore livestock supply chains. ESCAS is an essential element of Australia’s commitment to improving animal welfare performance.