AUSTRALIAN live sheep exporters are working with the trade’s regulator to investigate reports of animals outside Export Supply Chain Assurance System supply chains as the government is asked to expedite the trade’s phaseout.
Animals Australia has alleged that live Australian sheep are available for sale and slaughter at multiple locations in Oman outside of approved ESCAS facilities.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said supporting evidence have been provided by Animals Australia on several occasions in May and June 2023.
The department has provided the details of the allegations to relevant livestock exporters to provide them with opportunity to investigate and rectify any non-compliance with their ESCAS arrangements. The department said it is taking these allegations seriously and has commenced its investigation.
“This investigation will take some time.
“To mitigate the risk of further non-compliance the department has already taken regulatory action requiring exporters to implement stronger control arrangements, extra surveillance and additional reporting,” the department said in a statement.
The Australian Livestock Exporters Council advised this week that efforts to secure supply chains remain ongoing in Oman following allegations of ESCAS non-compliance by Animals Australia.
ALEC said exporter staff remain in Oman overseeing Australian livestock and will be present during the Eid-al-Adha festival, which commences the evening of 27 June, and will be undertaking all possible measures to ensure the welfare of Australian livestock.
Animals Australia has made it clear that it will have operatives on the ground in Oman during Eid, ALEC said.
“ALEC fully expects that Animals Australia will make further allegations to DAFF about the treatment of Australian animals during Eid, linked to the earlier allegations.
“Should further allegations be made, exporters are committed to working with DAFF as the industry’s regulator as it continues to investigate the situation in Oman,” the peak exporter body said.
“ESCAS is designed to ensure animals in all livestock export markets globally are handled and slaughtered in a humane manner year-round, including during the Eid Festival period. It remains key to underpinning welfare in all our markets.
“The live sheep trade remains incredibly important to Western Australian sheep producers and to our trading partners, particularly in the Middle East, that depend on Australia to support food security and meet consumer needs,” ALEC said.
ALEC said exporters are currently focusing their efforts on managing the upcoming Eid period.
Live shipments of sheep to Oman do not recommence until September at the earliest due to the Northern Summer moratorium arrangements and in the intervening period exporters will consider future supply arrangements to Oman in consultation with DAFF, ALEC said.
Alliance calls for government action on trade phaseout
The Australian Alliance for Animals today called on the Federal Government to expedite its phase out of live sheep exports as further evidence shows a complete breakdown of supply chain controls in Oman.
The latest breaches come in the lead up to the region’s Festival of Sacrifice, an extremely high-risk period for animal welfare, in which sheep are often sold outside approved supply chains for private slaughter.
Alliance for Animals policy director Dr Jed Goodfellow said the latest revelations were shocking yet entirely predictable.
“There appears to be a complete breakdown in supply chain controls, with dozens of reported breaches over several weeks involving large numbers of Australian animals.”
Alliance member Animals Australia first reported the breaches to the Department of Agriculture in May and has since made several further reports as higher numbers of Australian sheep continue to be found outside of approved supply chains.
“The responsible exporter is seemingly unable or unwilling to recover them and the Department appears powerless to compel them to do so,” Dr Goodfellow said.
“This latest incident shows that even under the most intense scrutiny, with the government literally in the process of phasing the trade out, exporters still can’t manage to comply with Australian export rules.
“The industry’s own representative body said in a statement today that it ‘fully expects’ there to be further reports of alleged breaches in the coming days,” he said.
“It’s gut wrenching to know that over the next few days, those animals, raised here on Australian farms, will likely experience tremendous fear, pain and suffering through untrained backyard slaughter.
“The sooner the Albanese Government fulfils its commitment to end the trade, the better,” Dr Goodfellow said.