14th July 2011
I am a veterinary surgeon and wish to respond to the terms of reference for the independent review into Australia’s livestock export trade.
Please find my comments below.
Dr Catherine Tiplady BVSc
The terms of reference for the independent review into Australia’s livestock export trade are to examine:
a. the facilities, treatment, handling and slaughter of livestock, exported from Australia, in the importing country for consistency with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recommendations and standards set out in Terrestrial Animal Health Code (2010)
Response: published by the World Organisation for Animal Health and other relevant standards
OIE standards were not being followed, as is evident after reading the OIE standards and viewing the footage broadcast by ABC television’s ‘4 Corners’ programme on 30th
I refer and will comment on the following points made in the OIE ‘Terrestrial Animal Health Code 2010’ Chapter 7.5: May 2011.
‘Provisions relevant to restraining animals for stunning or slaughter without stunning, to help maintain animal welfare, include:provision of a non-slippery floor’
Response: the floor outside the ‘restraint box’ was made wet with water by the slaughterhouse staff, causing the animals to repeatedly slip and strike their heads against the floor.
‘Conscious animals should not be thrown, dragged or dropped.’
Response: cattle were repeatedly and deliberately tripped and made to fall by use of ropes.
‘Animal handlers should be experienced and competent in handling and moving farm livestock, and understand the behaviour patterns of animals and the underlying principles necessary to carry out their tasks.’
Response: Judging by the repeated abuse of cattle in the 4 Corners programme, the handlers shown in Indonesian slaughterhouses are (a) inexperienced; (b) incompetent and/or (c) cruel. Any of these options are alarming and show a failure of the live export industry to protect the welfare of Australian cattle.
‘Domestic animals will try to escape if any person approaches closer than a certain distance. This critical distance, which defines the flight zone, varies among species and individuals of the same species, and depends upon previous contact with humans. Animals reared in close proximity to humans i.e. tame have a smaller flight zone, whereas those kept in free range or extensive systems may have flight zones which may vary from one metre to many metres. Animal handlers should avoid sudden penetration of the flight zone which may cause a panic reaction which could lead to aggression or attempted escape.’
Response: The cattle were seen on 4 Corners to be beaten, kicked and abused repeatedly. The flight zone of these cattle (extensively raised in the North) would be expected to be many metres. Regardless of flight zone, however, abuse is not acceptable.
‘Although most domestic animals have a highly sensitive sense of smell, they react in different ways to the smells of slaughterhouses. Smells which cause fear or other negative responses should be taken into consideration when managing animals.’
Response: Cattle in the 4 Corners footage were seen to be watching and hearing other cattle being killed and subjected to abuse. One animal was seen visibly trembling as it waited in line to be killed. This is unacceptable.
‘Domestic animals can hear over a greater range of frequencies than humans and are more sensitive to higher frequencies. They tend to be alarmed by constant loud noise and by sudden noises, which may cause them to panic. Sensitivity to such noises should also be taken into account when handling animals.’
Response: Cattle were not handled in a quiet, calm, competent manner and so the handling of cattle in the 4 Corners programme shows (again) that the basic OIE standards are not being met.
b. the adequacy of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) as they apply to the preparation and export of all livestock with consideration of responsibilities for compliance and enforcement of the ASEL
I don’t see how the ASEL can adequately protect animal welfare as on arrival in the destination country responsibility for the livestock is handed over to the importer:
‘At disembarkation, the master of the vessel transfers responsibility for the animals to the importer in the importing country, and should provide details of the voyage that may affect the future health and welfare of the livestock.’ (From: Version 2.2 Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock December 2008 viewed 14.7.11).
c. the adequacy and effectiveness of current Australian regulatory arrangements for the live export trade
Response: The current regulatory arrangements for the live export trade are inadequate and ineffective, given the widespread animal cruelty in several Indonesian slaughterhouses as seen on the ‘4 Corners’ coverage on 30th
A ban on live animal export for slaughter and replacement with locally, humanely slaughtered packaged meat exported to overseas markets would prove to the Australian and Indonesian people that cruelty to animals will not be tolerated. May, 2011 and in previous ABC/Animals Australia footage showing cruelty to Australian cattle and sheep on reaching destination countries for slaughter. It should not have been left to animal advocacy groups to step in to monitor and inform the public of the standard of animal welfare in the live export trade. An independent committee should be set up for monitoring animal welfare in Australian livestock and it should not be left until an expose reveals animal cruelty for something to be done.
d. the types of livestock suitable (weight, age, body condition, breeds) for export as feeder or slaughter animals
No animal is a suitable weight, age, condition or breed for abusive handling and prolonged suffering. As the livestock are evidently not guaranteed humane handling in overseas slaughterhouses, I suggest a ban.
e. the extent of monitoring required for each export consignment of feeder or slaughter livestock, in a manner that ensures accurate and transparent reporting to the Australian Government of the condition of the livestock from departure from Australia up to and including the point of slaughter in the country of destination
I believe that the public’s faith in the Australian government has been severely damaged by the recent exposure and handling of the live export trade. Would monitoring of livestock be thorough and accurate enough to improve welfare? The Australian government and livestock exporters have had decades to improve animal welfare and they have clearly failed. If livestock are sent to numerous markets and for home killing, will trained welfare inspectors be employed to follow each individual animal and watch over it until it is (humanely) slaughtered? Can inspectors be expected to intervene if they see animal cruelty? Won’t this put their personal safety at risk or will they travel in pairs with police back up? I don’t believe the extent of monitoring required would be a long term, feasible option. For livestock already en route to slaughter houses in Indonesia, permanent identification and monitoring of EACH and every animal may limit the risk of cruelty until a ban is put in place. These animals should only be sent to slaughterhouses which stun all animals prior to slaughter.
f. the risk management strategies necessary to address the welfare of animals from departure from Australia, up to and including the point of slaughter in the country of destination
For the reasons provided in the previous point I do not feel that welfare can be assured from departure from Australia to arrival in their destination country and onwards to feedlots, markets and slaughter.
g. other matters relevant to these terms of reference that the reviewer considers appropriate.
I don’t believe that Australia should continue to supply animals for live export for slaughter as this sends the message to the world that we are condoning cruelty. There are too many animal welfare risks on and off ship to make live export humane. In the past 30 years, an estimated 40,000 meat processing jobs have been lost and 150 processing plants have closed down primarily due to the live export trade, according to the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (Meat Trade News Daily 2010).
The MLA (2011) website states: ‘Australian animal welfare experts are based in export locations and regularly deliver animal welfare training and education programs and make improvements to infrastructure and livestock facilities’. Clearly, this has failed and a ban of live export is needed.
MLA (2011) ‘Livestock exports’ viewed 14 July 2011
Meat Trade News Daily (2010) ‘Australia - 40,000 meat packing jobs lost’ 14 August viewed 22 June 2011