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Livestock exporters respond to allegations in advance of receiving evidence of animal cruelty in Vietnam

Australian livestock exporters to Vietnam have taken steps in response to allegations by Animals Australia of animal cruelty towards exported Australian livestock in advance of the evidence being provided to them, the CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council Alison Penfold said today.

“There is no sidestepping the issue, if the evidence is of brutal treatment of Australian cattle – such as sledgehammering or other cruel practices then individual exporter, feedlot or abattoir systems to oversee control and traceability have failed to detect them,” Ms Penfold said.

“Why and how this has happened will be matters of investigation and the response should be direct at the facility or facilities in question.

“Without shifting responsibility, we can’t help but be frustrated that we have not yet been formally advised of the allegations made nor provided with the evidence collected by Animals Australia and supplied to the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources despite numerous requests. This information is immediately relevant to our responsibility to cattle in Vietnam at present and we are dismayed how it can be withheld.

“Despite this exporters have responded and have taken action to interrogate their supply chains including:-

1. Measures to suspend facilities alleged to be in breach

a. Suspension of Haiphong feedlot from receiving additional Australian livestock until internal investigation completed and any corrective actions flagged by the investigation are completed

b. Suspension of approved abattoirs in the Bai Do region from receiving Australian livestock areas until an internal investigation completed and any corrective actions flagged by the investigation are completed

2. Measures to immediately increase direct control of livestock in market

a. Exporter staff deployed to Vietnam to supplement existing in-market staff to oversee cattle movements to and from supply chain feedlots and to abattoirs to completion of nightly slaughter until internal reconciliation of stock movements is completed

3. Measures to immediately check veracity of previous cattle movements and nightly kills

a. Reconcile and verify numbers of cattle currently in market and reconcile numbers slaughtered against all available electronic recording of cattle in feedlot and abattoirs

b. Reconciliation reports to be completed and reviewed by management within 48 hours, and provided to the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources for verification if requested

c. Daily reports of livestock movements to be reconciled by exporters until further notice

4. Measures to confirm CCTV control and traceability systems

a. Confirm through visual on-site assessment that all CCTVs are in working order and operating

b. Review electronic monitoring arrangements and verify compliance for past 4 weeks

5. Measures to review management systems and oversight of control and traceability

a. Control and traceability audit of every facility in supply chain to be completed as soon as is practicable (where an audit has not been completed within the past 14 days)

“This interrogation process has already led to the suspension of an abattoir under the industry’s 6 Point Plan to add to the eight facilities currently under suspension. The Department has been advised.  This abattoir is now suspended from receiving Australian livestock from any Australian exporter for a period of six months and will have to satisfy an audit and other measures if it is ever to be allowed to process Australian livestock again.

Ms Penfold said that exporters will consider further measures once exporters have received and considered any evidence arising from their current investigations and the allegations made and evidence collected by Animals Australia.

“We are not shy of our responsibilities for the livestock we export and to Vietnam’s food security needs – this is our unique and all-encompassing challenge.

“We remain committed to meet our ESCAS obligations and our additional control and traceability requirements, such as electronic monitoring, under the industry’s 6 Point Plan announced last year.  These additional initiatives remain as relevant today as they did when implemented last year but will obviously come under review as a result of these allegations so we can strengthen and improve the Plan where necessary.

“Today is not the time to talk about the improvements made under the 6 Point Plan but they give us cause to believe in our investment in improving practices and infrastructure that support Vietnam’s own desired animal welfare improvement ambitions.

“Cruel treatment of animals is not excused. We know from our discussions with the Vietnamese Government that they too are focused on changing animal welfare practices.  Their new animal welfare law commences on 1 July 2016 and Australian exporters are engaging with Vietnamese agricultural officials to develop a collaborative animal welfare training package.

“This does not excuse us from the full force of the law where there has been a deliberate contravention of the laws governing the trade.  ALEC has said publicly that in these circumstances harsh penalties available to the Department should apply.

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Contact: Alison Penfold – 0408 633 026