LIVE export sheep supply chain breaches reported in the Middle East and South East Asia during the Eid al-Adha or Festival of Sacrifice religious festival have led to a renewed call for Australian exporter licences to “put on the line”.
Animals Australia has reported breaches in various markets to the Department of Agriculture and is compiling evidence collected by its investigators in order to formulate legal complaints.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer Simon Westaway confirmed that exporter representatives in the Middle East had identified Australian sheep outside of approved Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System supply chains during the festival and had advised the Department of Agriculture. Under ESCAS requirements, Australian livestock must not be sold outside of approved supply chains and cannot be purchased for home slaughter or for slaughter at facilities that have not been approved as meeting international animal welfare standards.
“The department has been advised of a number of leakages and exporters will continue to liaise closely with Departmental staff in the coming days,” Mr Westaway said.
“As outlined by ALEC Chairman Simon Crean upon his return from a recent tour of the Middle East, despite the ESCAS compliance measures in place, industry was aware of the risk that some Australian animals would be traded outside of the approved supply chain.”
Exporter self-reporting is deliberate strategy – Animals Australia
However, Animals Australia said Mr Crean’s tour of Middle East markets during the week before the Festival of Sacrifice had “reported back a realm of good intentions.”
Animals Australia chief investigator, Lyn White, said only through actually being at the festival could the ALEC CEO fully understand the animal welfare consequences of the trade he represents, or where his exporters are letting him down.
“It’s not the repercussions for animals sold outside of supply chains that he needs to be aware of, it is also the tens of thousands of animals killed whilst fully conscious in approved abattoirs.
“Exporter personnel were meant to be in all markets so it is completely unacceptable to again see Australian sheep available for sale in known high risk livestock markets,” Ms White said.
“Exporters ‘self-reporting’ breaches is now a deliberate industry strategy being employed to mitigate regulatory consequences.
“Until the Department takes a ‘no excuses’ attitude and puts export licences on the line, the blatant disregard for Australian regulations will continue,” she said.
Mr Westaway said exporters had Australian staff on the ground in Middle East markets supervising management arrangements at approved facilities for Australian sheep over Eid al Adha, while other Australian and locally engaged staff have been monitoring local markets for illegally removed sheep.
“Such leakage, while reflecting the commercial desperation of local traders to offer Australian sheep to the public, undermines the significant collaborative efforts of exporters in the market to develop the special livestock management systems for Eid.”’
Australian industry to review ESCAS supply chain systems
Mr Westaway said the industry will review its supply chain systems at the conclusion of Eid and continue to implement measures that prevent Australian sheep from being removed illegally from supply chains, not just during Eid but at any time of year.
Mr Westaway said exporters had been proactive in monitoring markets in recent days in an effort to detect any Australian sheep outside of approved supply chains. Third party reports of supply chain leakages, including in Malaysia, would be investigated.
Proactive reporting of leakage and other compliance issues by exporters was playing a vital role upholding the integrity of ESCAS, he said.
“The latest Regulatory Performance Report, published last week by DAWR, includes a number of reviews detailing reports of ESCAS non-compliance involving Australian sheep in Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.”
The report outlines a range of regulatory, corrective and preventative actions, implemented by the department and exports, in response to confirmed non-compliance. These included removing non-compliant facilities from ESCAS supply chains, requiring development of exporter supply chain management plans, appointing Animal Welfare Officers, liaising with importers and facilities to reiterate ESCAS requirements and ceasing supply to an entire market. Suspension of exporter licences was not included in the list of actions.
Festival of Sacrifice ESCAS breaches alleged by Animals Australia include:
In the UAE – the major livestock markets in Dubai, Sharjah and Al Ain were all selling Australian sheep for home slaughter, despite having been the subject of numerous complaints to the Department of Agriculture.
In Kuwait – the Al Rai livestock market was still selling Australian sheep despite eight previous complaints. AA said Australian sheep have suffered illegal and brutal slaughter at the market every year since regulations were introduced yet exporters are still permitted to send animals to the region during the high-risk festival period.
In Oman – the selling of Australian sheep contrary to live export regulations dramatically increased this year despite the Department of Agriculture increasing oversight requirements on exporters.
In Malaysia – blatant breaches relating to Australian sheep and goats were widespread – with Australian animals even being advertised for sale and sacrifice on Facebook. Australian cattle were also being offered for sacrificial slaughter.
In Lebanon – Australian sheep were being sold for sacrifice to individual buyers and being slaughtered on concreted slabs at feedlots.
A Department of Agriculture spokesperson said the department has received reports from Australian exporters and Animals Australia of ESCAS breaches in several markets during Eid al Adha.
Exporters and Animals Australia will provide more detailed information to the department when they return to Australia and formal investigations will commence once that evidence is received, thje spokesperson said.
“Through ESCAS, every incident, reported by industry, third parties or discovered through audit findings, is investigated and where problems are found exporters are required to address them.”
Source: Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Animals Australia.