ANIMAL welfare charity Animals Australia has criticised the effectiveness of Australia’s Export Supply Chain Assurance System after “significant and widespread” breaches involving Australian sheep exported live to Oman.
AA has lodged a legal complaint with Australia’s live export regulator, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, over the alleged ESCAS breaches in the Arabian Peninsula country.
The complaint has prompted exporters to send staff to Oman to investigate the ESCAS supply chain issues.
AA chief executive officer Glenys Oogjes said the complaint provides the locations of 14 non-ESCAS approved locations offering Australian sheep for sale – most with on-site kill floors.
“Evidence gathered shows sheep being deliberately sold to private buyers from an importer’s feedlot.
“The department was advised of this situation on Sunday (28 May) – immediately once the safety of the investigator and evidence was secured – and GPS details of ESCAS breach locations were provided to the department to enable immediate exporter action,” Ms Oogjes said.
“The fact that widespread deliberate breaches of ESCAS in Oman – that will result in sheep being brutally slaughtered in numerous private locations – were not detected, reported and acted upon by the two relevant exporters, RETWA and LSS, is completely unacceptable.
“Once again, the only reason that anybody – including the Commonwealth regulator – is made aware that live export regulations have been flagrantly breached en masse is because of the work of an animal welfare charity,” she said.
“The industry’s claim that Australia is the only country to have an ESCAS system is a hollow and misleading one when, time and time again, ESCAS has been proven to be not worth the paper it is written on.”
Ms Oogjes said Animals Australia has advised the Commonwealth regulator that the breaches detected by the Animals Australia investigator should only be seen as indicative of a complete (and deliberate) loss of control of one or both supply chains and that Australian sheep are likely to be available for sale and slaughter from many other livestock vendors in Oman.
“The Festival of Sacrifice, a time of peak animal suffering in the region, is in four weeks.
“Animals Australia has asked the department to instruct relevant exporters to urgently rectify this situation by locating and purchasing animals from individual traders throughout Oman and returning them into approved supply chains prior to the Festival of Sacrifice,” Ms Oogjes said.
“It is profoundly disappointing that while the industry has been rolling out their strategy to rally farmers in WA to support their calls to continue live sheep export, the sheep they are responsible for are having their throats cut on crude concrete slabs in Oman.
“While the industry’s PR machine is carefully seeking to curate a belief that the industry has reformed and is now a good corporate citizen, the evidence says otherwise, and animals continue to suffer.”
A DAFF spokesperson said the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry received allegations from a third-party on the evening of Sunday 28 May 2023 of non-compliance with the ESCAS for sheep in Oman.
“The third-party alleges that live Australian sheep are available for sale and slaughter at multiple locations in Oman outside of approved ESCAS facilities.
“The department provided the details of the allegations to relevant livestock exporters on 29 May 2023, seeking review of their in-country controls,” the spokesperson said.
“The department is taking these allegations seriously and will commence its investigation upon receipt of the evidence expected to be provided by the third-party in the coming days.
“The department investigates all allegations of non-compliance with ESCAS requirements based on the evidence provided.”
The spokesperson said the department takes immediate regulatory action in response to non-compliance where it is clearly identified, while investigations are ongoing, to mitigate the risk of further non-compliance.
“Exporters commit to having arrangements in their supply chain to ensure compliance with Australia’s ESCAS requirements.
“Where evidence demonstrates exporter supply chain arrangements have not met ESCAS requirements, the department will impose additional conditions,” the spokesperson said.
“These can range from extra surveillance and reporting, removing facilities from supply chains right through to loss of an exporter’s licence.”
The spokesperson said the Australian Government is committed to ensuring that exported animals are treated as humanely as possible.
“Australia is the only country, out of over 100 livestock exporting nations, that requires specific animal welfare conditions for exported feeder and slaughter livestock once they arrive in the importing country.
“ESCAS provides assurance that these animal welfare conditions are met and its introduction by the Australian Government was the most significant regulatory reform the live export industry has ever seen.”
The spokesperson said ESCAS – as a regulatory system – requires exporters to have arrangements with supply chain partners (i.e., importers, transport, feedlots, abattoirs) in importing countries to provide for the control, traceability and animal welfare of feeder and slaughter livestock from arrival through to point of slaughter.
“When incidents do occur, ESCAS provides a framework for the department to investigate and address non-compliances with exporters and to take regulatory action where appropriate.”
Exporters deploy staff to investigate issues – ALEC
The Australian Livestock Exporters Association told Sheep Central is has reviewed the footage provided to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry related to non-compliances of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System in Oman.
“This footage shows non-compliances with ESCAS in Oman, in particular sheep outside of approved supply chains.
“To remediate this, the two exporters with sheep in Oman have rapidly deployed staff to investigate and address the supply chain issues. ALEC and the exporters continue to work closely with the regulator on this issue,” ALEC said.
“ESCAS regulatory requirements are an important welfare measure that Australian exporters are proud of.
“While we wait for an impartial investigation by DAFF, exporters will continue to improve standards through rapidly addressing breaches of ESCAS as soon as possible,” ALEC said.
ALEC did not comment on whether the industry should employs its own inspectors in Middle Eastern markets to do the oversight work that animal welfare organisations are currently doing, in the interests of stopping ESCAS breaches.