ANIMAL welfare body RSPCA Australia is calling for the electronic ear tagging of all sheep and cattle exported live after recent incidents in Jordan and Indonesia.
The RSPCA is also calling for real-time CCTV monitoring in overseas abattoirs handling Australian livestock.
The calls for increased monitoring tools have been outlined in a letter to Australia’s Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud.
However, a department spokesperson said the use of unique individual animal identification for the traceability of exported sheep and goats was considered when ESCAS was being developed in 2011.
“At that time, there was no national system in Australia that uniquely identified individual sheep and goats in Australia – a situation that remains today.
“Should individual identification of sheep and goats become mandatory in all states and territories of Australia then we will be in a position to require it in exported sheep and goats,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Littleproud was also sent visual evidence allegedly showing Australian sheep outside Exporter Supply Chain Assurance supply chains in at least 10 Jordan locations, and cattle being subjected to slaughter without stunning while restrained by ropes and use of the prohibited Mark 1 box in Indonesia.
RSPCA Australia senior policy officer Dr Jed Goodfellow said the evidence was disturbing, and exposes systemic weaknesses in the ESCAS framework, which was created specifically to address animal cruelty in export supply chains.
“The alleged breaches in Jordan are brazen in nature, with multiple public advertisements posted on social media for the sale of Australian sheep outside of approved supply chains – it appears to be a complete breakdown in supply chain controls.
“The Jordanian-owned exporter, Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) has by far the highest number of ESCAS breaches of any exporter, with dozens of major and critical breaches against its name, involving many thousands of animals,” he said.
The Australian Livestock Exporters Council has said LSS identified an offending Jordanian facility that sold sheep outside the LSS-approved supply chain, in blatant disregard of their ESCAS obligations. LSS has permanently removed the offending facility from the supply chain with no opportunity to be ever re-added, a council statement said last week.
“How many more animals need to be subjected to the fear and distress of having their legs bound, being thrown into car boots in the stifling heat, and subjected to makeshift home slaughter, before the Department of Agriculture will revoke this exporter’s licence?
“The current approach of simply applying additional conditions to an exporter’s supply chain during their next consignment has failed dismally – it has proven to be only a minor inconvenience rather than a sufficient deterrent,” Dr Goodfellow said.
“The footage of cattle slaughter in Indonesia is equally disturbing, and all too reminiscent of the horrific scenes from 2011 when cattle were bound by ropes and forced to the ground before having their throats cut without stunning,” Dr Goodfellow said.
The RSPCA said Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment scaled back ESCAS audit requirements in April due to COVID restrictions further exposing supply chains vulnerabilities.
The urgent measures proposed by the RSPCA in its letter to the minister include:
CCTV monitoring in ESCAS supply chains with real-time Departmental access;
individual electronic identification for exported sheep to facilitate traceability, and;
an immediate review of the department’s Guideline for the Management of Non-compliance to ensure that more effective penalties are imposed on repeat offenders.