ESCAS skewing priorities

A disproportionate focus on animal welfare relative to concern for human welfare is just plain wrong

WHEN the former government allowed live exports to resume following the suspension in June 2011, it imposed a scheme on exporters known as ESCAS (Exporters Supply Chain Assurance System).

Prior to the suspension, exporters of livestock were only required to track exported animals from the property of origin in Australia to the port of export and report on the outcome of the voyage.

Under ESCAS, permission to export requires the exporter to retain control over the animals through to slaughter in the destination country. That means either vertical integration or appropriate contractual agreements with the importer, feedlot operator, transporter and abattoir operator.

Evidence of traceability is also required so individual animals (cattle and buffaloes) can be identified and located at any point. Exporters of sheep and goats must have a system based on counting and reconciliation at points along the supply chain. An end-of-processing report must be supplied for each consignment along with an independent performance audit report.

Exporting without a licence or intentionally contravening licence conditions carries a penalty of five years in prison.

What prompted the 2011 suspension was footage supplied to the ABC by Animals Australia showing cattle from Australia being inhumanely slaughtered in Indonesia. Since then Animals Australia has come up with further claims of cruelty to animals, mostly sheep, exported from Australia to Jordan, Kuwait, Israel and Lebanon, all of which the ABC has dutifully reported.

Animals Australia is an animal rights lobby group committed to forcing an end to all live exports, amongst other animal welfare issues.

It has no policy on human rights matters such as the oppression of women or persecution of Christians in destination countries. It is all about the animals.

The group does not, for example, insist that Australia stop exporting wheat to any of the 27 African countries, Yemen or Iraqi Kurdistan where female circumcision is practised. A 2013 UNICEF report found that 125 million women and girls in those countries have been affected.

It has nothing to say about export destinations that do not allow women to vote or that treat women as chattels, or the growing number in which Christian churches are being burnt down and their congregations brutalised. Indeed, there is no equivalent to ESCAS for exporting anything other than livestock.

As a corollary, the ABC also has very little to say about those issues, especially in comparison to its coverage of the complaints raised by Animals Australia.

This prompts an interesting question. While a lobby group might be excused for focusing on one issue to the exclusion of all others, is it appropriate for the taxpayer-funded ABC to do the same?

Perhaps more importantly, what does it say about our priorities as a nation that we should seek to impose our standards of animal welfare on other countries under ESCAS while saying nothing about issues that scream out for attention, such as the oppression of women and persecution of Christians?

While there are international treaties that assert human rights are universal and should not be subject to cultural interpretation, that is not the case with animal welfare. Cultural differences are hugely important.

Both the halal and kosher methods for slaughtering sheep, for example, consist of using a well-sharpened knife to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat, the carotid artery, windpipe, and jugular veins. There is no prior stunning. That, and images of animals being bled (consumption of blood is not permissible in either case) appals Animals Australia.

Similarly, Animals Australia considers images of sheep being dragged by their legs and stuffed into car boots as evidence of outrageous cruelty, despite it being not much different from what occurs in every shearing shed in Australia. Nobody seems to have explained to them that sheep are not good at walking on a lead.

There are undoubtedly instances of cruelty to animals in our export markets and we should obviously seek every opportunity to convince our export customers not to be cruel. A bit of information and education can often go a long way.

But the ability to use our influence is diminished by a holier-than-thou approach that assumes our animal welfare standards are universal when that is clearly not the case. Moreover, a disproportionate focus on animal welfare relative to concern for human welfare is just plain wrong.

Both the government and the ABC ought to stop allowing Animals Australia to set their priorities.

Animal welfare is important, but not something we should seek to impose on our customers while we show such little interest in human welfare.

  • David Leyonhjelm has been an agribusiness consultant for 25 year and was recently elected to the Senate for the Liberal Democrats. He may be contacted at
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    David Leyonhjelm

    David Leyonhjelm

    has worked in agribusiness for 30 years and is a Senator for NSW representing the Liberal Democrats.
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    8/11/2013 8:45:49 AM

    Why does it have to be a question of protecting one or the other? Surely we can show compassion towards both human and animals. Shouldn't our goal be to protect both from unnecessary pain and suffering.
    6/11/2013 3:06:28 PM

    Guess what Correllio - suicide is not illegal..assisting is. I suspect what David advocates is not "euthanasing like dogs" but an act kindness...a choice I'd like to have and I don't know why its any of your business !!!!
    6/11/2013 9:30:47 AM

    Must be watching a different ABC to me - I find they report n a great variety of issues, involving human rights, animal welfare both here and abroad. Also they did a follow up on the animal rights led abbatoir closure in Victoria & its wide spread affect on the community. Stop cherry picking your stats - it affects your credibility with your readers, questions your motives and the ABC I watch & listen to has many good indepth programs on many issues large and small which affect me more than who may have talent or dancing around in little more than bras .
    Cattle Advocate
    6/11/2013 6:05:39 AM

    Peter Singer ''-on shaky ground if we were to demand equally for blacks, women and other groups of oppressed humans while denying equal consideration to nonhumans. A person's sex is no guide to his or her abilities, and this is why it is unjustifiable to disciminate on the basis of sex.''
    Cattle Advocate
    6/11/2013 5:57:00 AM

    Alexandra Chen ''-before your eyes is horrifying and destroys one's sense of safety. One boy would walk out of his family's tent every morning at 3 am, and go to our child-friendly space in Zaatari camp and just hide in the corner. His family had no idea. It was just because the stress he was experiencing was so overwhelming that he had to be in a place where he felt safe and just to be by himself.'' 'Animal Liberation' Peter Singer ''If we examine more deeply the basis on which our opposition to discrimination on grounds of race or sex ultimately rests we will see that we would be-
    Cattle Advocate
    6/11/2013 5:42:17 AM

    2.1M Syrians have fled their homeland and that could grow to 3.5M by the end of the year, the worst exodus since the Rawandan Genocide, 7M people still in Syria need help. in Jordan 1 in 12 people are Syrian refugees thats like Aus taking 2M refugees. Alexandra Chen from Mercy Corps that has established child protection committees in Jordan to protect Syrian kids against violence, rape and child labour. '' Some have seen their parents or their brothers and sisters killed, tortured or raped in front of them. To witness your figures of protection and honor physically and emotionally violated-
    5/11/2013 6:57:02 AM

    David, you hit the nail on the head. It is time that our publicly funded ABC be brought into line and not continue to be a stooge for dodgy organisations like AA. As for the RSPCA, their government funding should be cut unless they get back to their core values and not become a subsidiary of the likes of AA.
    5/11/2013 2:43:32 AM

    @Correllio Did you read the whole article? He wrote: "While a lobby group might be excused for focusing on one issue to the exclusion of all others, is it appropriate for the taxpayer-funded ABC to do the same?" Looks like you were not attentive. Check your health, man (:
    4/11/2013 3:36:49 PM

    While I agree with Mr Leyonhjelm on the matter of ESCAS, Animals Aus and the ABC, it's a bit rich coming from a soon to be LDP senator whose own party platform advocates that people shold be euthanised like dogs. Caring for humans is it? Let's beat up on Animals Aus for caring about sheep in Jordan while simultaneously advocating for killing Australian citizens? Something smells here. Smells like self-serving business as usual.
    Jo Bloomfield
    4/11/2013 1:43:26 PM

    Animals Australia receive approximately $30,000 a year from government as it is registered as a charitable non profit organisation. It only recently registered for GST compliance yet enjoyed a $2M+ income 2011 and $3M+ in 2012. Animals Australia is a radical animal rights organisation aimed ultimately at veganism. Livestock production is seen by them as immoral and unnecessary no matter how good the Animal welfare..
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    Agribuzz with David LeyonhjelmCommentary, news and analysis with agribusiness consultant David Leyonhjelm. Email David at


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