Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has responded to an ABC program raising welfare concerns for sheep live exported to Oman saying it takes any allegation of non-compliance with Australia’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) seriously.
ESCAS makes exporters accountable for the control and welfare of livestock from arrival in the importing country until the point of slaughter.
The department said that when the allegations were raised it took regulatory action that required the relevant exporters to implement stronger control arrangements, extra surveillance, and additional reporting. No other Australian sheep have been exported to Oman since the alleged incidents.
“No regulatory system can ensure that there will never be an incidence of non-compliance. The benefit of ESCAS is that it allows for the identification of problems, and for them to be dealt with,” said DAFF in a statement.
“We are 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.”
However, Animals Australia, the organization that lodged the complaints states that it was evidence gathered by Animals Australia investigators that forced regulations that require animals to be kept within approved supply chains. Sheep are no longer allowed to be transported in utes and car boots or sold for home slaughter.
“Yet, our extensive evidence across dozens of locations in Oman revealed these rules are being ignored, with some sellers even confirming they receive a constant supply of Australian sheep – in breach of live export rules,” said Animals Australia in a statement. “Animals Australia lodged six complaints with the live export regulator. This marked our 78th legal complaint since regulations were put in place 11 years ago, further reinforcing that export companies cannot be trusted to police their own activities.”
The Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) responded to the ABC program saying: “We consider this investigation by DAFF entirely appropriate and support it completely as part of a strong regulatory system. We have been very clear in the meantime that we do not wish to prejudice that investigation by making further comment.
“ALEC and its members are unaware of any new allegations since advising the public of the situation 11 weeks ago. If any new allegations are made during this story, then Animals Australia should immediately refer them to DAFF for investigation.
“If there are no new allegations, this is simply a rehash of an issue the industry made public nearly three months ago and it should be called out for the political campaign it is – designed to undermine the Export Supply Assurance System (ESCAS), not enhance it.”
ALEC says that while no system is perfect, it has improved animal welfare in all our sheep, goat and cattle markets for over a decade, contributing to a net improvement in animal welfare globally. At the same time the Australian live export industry has provided food security to millions of people in countries that cannot produce enough protein for their populations.
“We are also sure this story will be timed in a manner that seeks to capitalise on the Albanese Government’s announcement to phase out live sheep exports. This policy will cause irreparable damage to the businesses of Western Australian farmers and to Australia’s longstanding friendship with our Middle Eastern trading partners. We know the community does not support it.”
A Parliamentary petition to lock in the end of the practice has been signed by almost 26,000 Australians and is currently the largest open petition by far as well as being in the top 45 most supported e-petitions of all time.