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Streamlined ESCAS will not weaken welfare: Exporters

James Nason, September 11, 2014

Cuts to red tape for livestock exporters announced by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce today will not diminish animal welfare outcomes, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council insists.

Since the rushed introduction of the mandatory Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System in all export markets in the wake of the Indonesian animal welfare controversy in mid-2011, exporters have maintained that much of process involves unnecessary duplication and cost that could be cut without reducing animal welfare.

In news that has been welcomed by the industry, agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce this morning announced that he will fast-track reductions of some of unnecessary regulatory burdens exporters currently shoulder.

The ESCAS changes announced today include:

  • Separating ESCAS approval from individual consignment approval;
  • Adding the option of risk based auditing for compliant supply chains; and
  • Consolidating and improving auditor checklists used to assess compliance with international animal welfare standards.

Mr Joyce said the changes were common-sense and would reduce costs without reducing welfare outcomes.

“The Australian community expects our animals to be handled humanely when exported overseas and accordingly, ESCAS is the only system in the world established to ensure international animal welfare standards are met offshore and throughout the entire supply chain,” Mr Joyce said.

“It is the responsibility of our exporters to ensure the treatment of our animals complies with these standards – but government also has a responsibility to make sure this goal is achieved using the lightest regulatory touch.”

Focus now on managing risk rather than paperwork

Minister Joyce said the red tape reductions meant the regulatory framework’s focus would be on managing risk rather than paperwork and result in fewer audits for low risk supply chains – both of which would reduce costs to industry over time.

“For example, separating ESCAS approval from individual consignment approvals means we can approve an exporter’s ESCAS arrangements to a market once, rather than for every consignment sent to that market. This change is vitally important because all the extra paperwork and approvals don’t add up to a corresponding increased level of assurance or animal welfare outcomes.

“We use audits to make sure the arrangements attested to under ESCAS are working. The changes I announce today will help us there as well. We can increase the number of audits for those supply chains where we have experienced non-compliance in the past and reduce the number of audits for supply chains that have not had any issues.

“These common-sense changes continue to provide the community with assurance that our animals are humanely treated.

“We had an election commitment to improve the efficiency of ESCAS and to reduce red tape associated with it. This goes some way to delivering that and I anticipate announcing more reforms to ESCAS processes in the coming months,” Minister Joyce said.

ALEC: Cuts will allow greater supply chain investment

Australian Livestock Exporter’s Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the council welcomed the early administrative changes to ESCAS announced by Mr Joyce this morning.

She said the changes drew on the experience of the past three years.

“We agree that they are common sense, reasonable changes to strip out unnecessary red tape, while continuing to support the welfare outcomes we are all committed to,” Mr Penfold told Beef Central.

Ms Penfold said the changes were changes the industry had sought, and the savings they created would allow even greater investments to be made in better supply chains.

“For example the announcement on auditing is a really good start, we know there is more work to be done, currently 34pc of audits are duplicated and that costs industry $1.8m,” she said.

“That is $1.8m we can’t spend on initiatives in our supply chains, so the move to performance risk-based auditing approach, where you have good compliant supply chains, will certainly assist exporters in reducing the costs of auditing.”

The decoupling of the NOI and ESCAS process would also reduce duplication for the Department which would add further efficiencies, Ms Penfold explained.

“We have exporters for example to Indonesia who export to the same supply chains on a very regular basis.

“Rather than the department having to approve the same supply chain each and every time, they will have that standing approval, and that will reduce the administrative time the department takes to approve export applications.”

She stressed that the changes that have been announced were “administrative changes” which did not in any way undermine the welfare assurance the industry was committee to.

“Our view is that the previous government left an amazing legacy for the trade and we’re trying to build on that and enhance that to create simply a more efficient and effective system,” she said.

(ALEC has also released a media statement this afternoon which can be viewed by clicking here)

RSPCA: Cuts could increase risk for exported animals

The RSPCA also issued a statement this afternoon in response to the cuts:

The RSPCA is calling for clarification from the Government on its plans to weaken the only regulatory frame work in place aimed at providing basic standards of handling, transport and slaughter for Australian exported animals – the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).

ESCAS was put in place in response to the Australian community outrage after the horrors of the live export trade were exposed in 2011.

The RSPCA has not been consulted or informed about these changes prior to this announcement, which raises our suspicions about its true intent.

This is an industry that has proven time and time again that it can’t be trusted, the last thing it needs is a ‘light regulatory touch’.

Despite regular requests, the RSPCA and Australian community including producers have no publicly available information about supply chains overseas and their performance.

We therefore have no confidence that the changes announced today will not risk animal welfare.

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