TASMANIAN Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has proposed legislation for all livestock exported from Australia, including sheep, to be identified and tracked with an electronic ear tag, to tighten trade regulation.
The well-known opponent of the live export trade, yesterday read the Australian Meat and Livestock Industry (Amendment) (Tagging Livestock) Bill 2016 for the second time in the Federal Parliament.
Mr Wilkie said the Export Supply Chain Assurance System does not work and despite “shocking revelations” out of the Middle East and Malaysia during the Festival of Sacrifice – when sheep were reportedly sold and slaughtered outside approved ESCAS supply chains — no exporter has yet been prosecuted for the mistreatment of Australian livestock.
“It is interesting that ESCAS — and I have gone to the department’s own material here — is based on four principles: animal welfare, control through the supply chain, traceability through the supply chain, and independent audit.
“But the problem is that you cannot achieve any of those principles when exported animals cannot be properly identified,” he said.
“That now goes to the essence of this bill: the need to properly identify all livestock that are exported to other countries.”
Mr Wilkie said all Australian cattle are required to have electronic ear tags as part of the National Livestock Identification System, but there is no requirement for the tag to be read after the animal leaves Australia. Click here to get Sheep Central story links sent to your email inbox.
“The beast is simply marked as ‘exported’ after it gets on the boat, and no further information is collected.
“The situation is even worse with sheep and goats,” he said.
“They are currently only required to have a plastic ear tag bearing the property identification code of the property where they came from — in other words, a tag showing a property number — and each individual animal is not identified.
“We have seen, time and time again when there is an expose, particularly in the Middle East, where many of our sheep go, that the tags have been ripped off, so they cannot identify even what farm that animal came from, and hence they cannot identify which exporter was responsible for sending that sheep to that market.”
Mr Wilkie said probably the most significant reason — other than perhaps a failure of political leadership to address this issue more broadly — that ESCAS has not solved the problem, is that our current tagging arrangements are completely and utterly unsatisfactory.
We have cattle, as I read there, that are electronically tagged, but there is no legal requirement for those tags to be read after the animals leave Australia.
“And sheep, goats and camels are not even required to be electronically tagged.”
The bill required all livestock exported to be fitted with an electronic identification tag of the kind approved by the secretary of the department, he said.
It also stipulated that data from the tag be collected and recorded at each stage during the live export process, including when the beasts — and sheep, goats and camels — are taken off the vessel in a foreign port, transferred to a feedlot or a market for sale, or to an abattoir or a slaughterhouse.
Mr Wilkie suggested the bill would ensure authorities knew exactly where every Australian-sourced animal is, who is responsible for it and, by implication, who is responsible for any mistreatment.
He said he was introducing the bill at the behest of people who see the risks to their industry, but would continue to do everything he could to see the industry shut down.
“People might see a contradiction in what I am trying to do here—in some ways I am trying to help the industry to be put on a more sustainable footing.
“I suppose what I am doing, ultimately, is saying that I will keep fighting to wind up the live animal export trade.”
Animals Australia last month suggested that all Australian sheep and goats exported live should be identified with electronic tags to ensure a level of accountability. The animal rights groups has also been contacting the former owners of Australian sheep it has recorded in overseas markets.