Hundreds of Australian sheep were sold illegally from a notoriously cruel livestock market in Kuwait, Animals Australia has claimed.
But exporters believe almost all of the 100,000 Australian sheep exported to Kuwait were processed in approved facilities.
Animals Australia communications director Lisa Chalk said the scenes from the Kuwait market were appalling and represented the worst abuses associated with the live export trade – abuses that Australian regulations were established to prevent.
“With temperatures exceeding 42 degrees, trussed and panicked sheep were being thrown on the backs of trucks.
“They were visibly distressed by their circumstances, panting uncontrollably and drooling,” she said.
“Bound sheep were left lying on the searing hot metal trays of trucks whilst others were headed for car boots.”
Al Rai market prompted new live export rules
This is the fifth time Animals Australia has provided the Department of Agriculture with evidence of recurring live export breaches at the Al Rai market, she said.
“It was the horrific abuse of Australian animals documented at this market in 2010 that predicated the government’s new system of live export regulation.
“That such abuse and disregard for regulations continues, both in Jordan and Kuwait, is directly related to the failure to take strong action against exporters for breaches.”
Australia’s Department of Agriculture said it had received an initial report from Animals Australia of sheep outside approved supply chains in Kuwait.
“Investigations are underway.
“The department has been advised that video footage is available but this has not yet been provided to the department as part of the initial report.”
Poor handling of sheep is disappointing – ALEC
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer, Alison Penfold said the poor handling and slaughter of Australian livestock in Kuwait is another disappointing setback in our 2014 Eid al Adha preparations.
Media reports showed Australian sheep being trussed and thrown onto hot trucks for private sale to the general public from the Al Rai market in Kuwait City.
“This facility is not approved for Australian livestock and the handling of livestock as shown in the reports are far removed from the practices in facilities approved under ESCAS, let alone what Australians view as humane treatment,” Ms Penfold said.
“There is no need for this rough and cruel handling and it still beggars belief that these people think it appropriate to do so.
“Such actions reminds us all of the size of the task globally to improve attitudes and behaviours of people towards animals.”
Black market reflects poorly on Australian industry
Ms Penfold said that the black market trade of Australian livestock from approved facilities in Kuwait once again reflects poorly on industry and will be the benchmark on which we are judged.
“Any failures by industry to meet the exacting requirements of ESCAS global assurance casts a dark shadow on us, even though Australian exporters are the only livestock exporters in the world to be actively managing export livestock from on farm preparation to the point of slaughter.
“While leakage to the black market is the problem, it is the consequences of it – poor handling, treatment and slaughter and an unnecessary cruel end for a slaughter animal- that raises doubts about our performance and our commitment to animal welfare.
“While the industry had flagged that Kuwait was a high risk market for poor welfare outcomes this Eid, we take no comfort that our fears have been realised and we will continue to seek ways to address leakage despite the challenges.”
Investigation unable to establish sheep ownership
Ms Penfold said that industry consultants first became aware of the presence of the Australian sheep in Al Rai market on September 26 and reported this to exporters to the market that same day.
“Exporters conducted an investigation, but were unable to establish the ownership of the some 500 sheep in question.
“While in the past sheep found in Al Rai market have been able to be removed once found and returned to approved facilities, this was not possible on this occasion.
“Currently exporter and customer staff, along with several industry Live Export Program (LEP) consultants are working with three abattoir facilities in Kuwait that have been approved to process Australian livestock under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) in preparation for Eid.
“It is these facilities that will process almost all of the 100,000 Australian sheep currently in Kuwait in approved facilities,” she said.
“It’s through these locations that the LEP has invested resources via the provision of proper handling and slaughter training.
“Additionally, LEP consultants have made a concerted effort to assist facilities with strategic logistics support to ensure that people and sheep are able to flow through abattoir systems with minimal disruption, with consideration of both human and animal welfare during this sensitive time of the Islamic year,” Ms Penfold said.
“We have confidence that through our efforts the large majority of Australian sheep in Kuwait during Eid this year will be sold and processed through ESCAS approved facility.
“While the system isn’t perfect, it does work and has enabled significant and continuing improvements to the handling, treatment and slaughter of Australian livestock overseas.”