Australia suspends live cattle exports to Egypt

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 6th May 2013

Australia has suspended live exports of cattle to Egypt and proposed “major reforms”, after video footage of animal cruelty at two Egyptian abattoirs was given to the Australian Government on Wednesday 1 May 2013.

The video footage, recorded by animal rights group Animals Australia, showed instances of animal cruelty, one from October 2012 and one from April 2013. It is believed that the cattle came from Australian in July 2012. The footage presented to the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) was then relayed to industry representative body the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC), which agreed to suspend the cattle exports to Egypt.

“We completely support and will assist the fullest possible investigations in both countries of how these events could be possible, and how to stop a repeat of this behaviour,” said Alison Penfold, CEO of industry representative body the ALEC.

“While such cases are very few, and the vast portion of live exports achieves high standards, such unconscionable cruelty cannot be tolerated and our industry will eradicate it,” Ms Penfold said.

ALEC said the sector has voluntarily suspended exports to the Egyptian facilities until there is evidence that practices and procedures comply with international animal welfare guidelines.

“This means no cattle exports to Egypt in the foreseeable future,” Ms Penfold said.

Cattle exports to Egypt were banned for some years after 2006, when instances of animal cruelty were discovered at the Bassateen abattoir. Export to Egypt resumed under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Australian and Egyptian governments, which was designed to prevent cattle being shipped to the Bassateen abattoir.

“Major reforms” proposed

Australian industry representative bodies the Cattle Council of Australia, the National Farmers’ Federation and the ALEC today announced proposals for major reforms to protect the welfare of animals, and will be asking the Australian Government to absorb Egyptian trade into the unified Australia-wide Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).

ESCAS is a standard that delivers monitoring and control over the welfare of Australian animals in their destination countries, ensuring all facilities meet international welfare standards. A critical welfare feature of ESCAS is that the Australian animals will remain the responsibility of the Australian exporter, even after ownership has technically changed hands in foreign ports.

ALEC said the ESCAS was introduced after concerns about animal cruelty in Indonesia led to a ban on live exports to that country.

“Since then there has been vast improvements in welfare of Australian animals in Indonesia. Through co-operation with local industry, the industry-funded Livestock Export Program has trained over 1,700 Indonesians in international standards in animal handling and slaughter practices,” Ms Penfold said.

In addition to absorbing Egypt into the ESCAS, and responses to any further initiatives  that arise from the Australian Government’s investigations into the incidents at the Egyptian facilities, the sector’s representative bodies are proposing:

  • The provision of additional training for all feedlot and abattoir workers in OIE compliant animal handling and slaughter practices
  • The placement of Animal Welfare Officers in the facilities
  • Measures to ensure that only suitably trained stock handlers or veterinarians undertake emergency slaughter of injured livestock

Australian Federal Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) radio program ‘AM’ on 4 May 2013, that the Australian Government was working with Egyptian authorities to further investigate the incidents shown in the video footage.

“Egyptian authorities are also dismayed and are willing to work properly with us,” Senator Ludwig said.