Australian livestock exporters have agreed to implement additional measures, including permanent suspensions, to tighten Vietnam supply chain controls and improve compliance following further consideration of the material provided by the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources, the CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Alison Penfold announced today.
“I watched the sledgehammer footage again last night as part of the 7.30 Report story. No amount of times watching those animals suffer will lessen how sick and disgusting it is and makes me feel. I can only imagine how people watching it for the first time must have felt.
“The footage will call into question the genuine individual efforts of exporters over the past year to take actions to tighten supply chain controls and we have a lot of work to do to build trust in the regulatory process set up to protect the welfare of Australian cattle.
“Although we exported more than 300,000 cattle last year to Vietnam, it is individual facility failures which we must address if our industry is going to have any chance of regaining public confidence in live export trade to Vietnam.
Following further consideration of the material provided by the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources (DAWR) on late Monday afternoon, exporters have agreed to additional actions to be immediately put in place while the investigation is still under way.
In addition to the immediate suspension of supply to any approved Vietnam feedlot or abattoir under investigation, we will:
- Permanently ban the supply of cattle to any approved facility in Vietnam found in critical breach by the Department
- Focus on strengthening existing supply chains and facilities via no new ESCAS approvals for any new importer or feedlot in Vietnam until agreed with the Department and industry
- Initiate a 3-month independent inquiry into the traceability and control practices, systems, standards and objectives intended to support the ESCAS animal welfare requirements in Vietnam. The inquiry will be conducted by a panel of experts and report publicly.
- Refocus supply chain customer commitments to animal welfare compliance through an urgent meeting in Vietnam between all supply chain participants.
- Seek to fast track current talks with Vietnamese officials to implement a collaborative animal welfare training program in Vietnam as part of the Vietnamese Government’s ushering in of a new animal welfare law on 1 July 2016.
- Convene an urgent meeting with all audit companies that provide or could provide ESCAS audit services in Vietnam and the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources to discuss audit challenges in the market.
- Openly address the concerns of all stakeholders, understand the in-market challenges and find common ground on solutions for improving animal welfare that supports the trade by convening a workshop of exporters, Animals Australia, RSPCA, Cattle Council of Australia, the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources, regional representatives of the OIE and representatives from the Vietnamese Government.
- Continue discussions with Cattle Council of Australia on measures that provide further transparency on supply chain activities.
- Establish an ALEC Ethics Committee to peer review the behaviour of any member that brings the industry into disrepute and as a means of sanctioning members, including expulsion.
“These commitments show we recognise that we need to engage with our stakeholders, including our harshest critics such as Animals Australia and the RSPCA, on the solutions to solve the complex challenges we face,” Ms Penfold said.
Ms Penfold also sought to respond to suggestions overnight that ALEC failed to act when Animals Australia presented footage of sledgehammering in 2015.
“The footage shown to ALEC at a meeting on 27 May 2015 was of Thai bulls in a Vietnam facility. The meeting came two months after I had already been publicly calling out the practice of sledgehammering and six weeks after the industry had initiated and announced actions to tighten control and traceability in the market to prevent leakage to unapproved facilities where sledgehammering is used.
“It was my error not to have provided a written response to Animals Australia at the time but it is wrong to suggest that the plan presented by them has not been considered by industry.”
Media contact: Alison Penfold – 0408 633 026
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